Eukaryotic algae are an extremely diverse category of photosynthetic organisms and some species produce highly potent bioactive compounds poisonous to humans or other animals, most notably observed during harmful algal blooms. These natural products include some of the most poisonous small molecules known and unique cyclic polyethers. However, the diversity and complexity of algal genomes means that sequencing-based research has lagged behind research into more readily sequenced microbes, such as bacteria and fungi. Applying informatics techniques to the algal genomes that are now available reveals new natural product biosynthetic pathways, with different groups of algae containing different types of pathways. There is some evidence for gene clusters and the biosynthetic logic of polyketides enables some prediction of these final products. For other pathways, it is much more challenging to predict the products and there may be many gene clusters that are not identified with the automated tools. These results suggest that there is a great diversity of biosynthetic capacity for natural products encoded in the genomes of algae and suggest areas for future research focus.
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