Indole-diterpenes are an important class of chemical compounds which can be unique to different fungal species. The highly complex lolitrem compounds are confined to Epichloë
species, whilst penitrem production is confined to Penicillium
spp. and Aspergillus
spp. These fungal species are often present in association with pasture grasses, and the indole-diterpenes produced may cause toxicity in grazing animals. In this review, we highlight the unique structural variations of indole-diterpenes that are characterised into subgroups, including paspaline, paxilline, shearinines, paspalitrems, terpendoles, penitrems, lolitrems, janthitrems, and sulpinines. A detailed description of the unique biological activities has been documented where even structurally related compounds have displayed unique biological activities. Indole-diterpene production has been reported in two classes of ascomycete fungi, namely Eurotiomycetes (e.g., Aspergillus
) and Sordariomycetes (e.g., Claviceps
). These compounds all have a common structural core comprised of a cyclic diterpene skeleton derived from geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) and an indole moiety derived from tryptophan. Structure diversity is generated from the enzymatic conversion of different sites on the basic indole-diterpene structure. This review highlights the wide-ranging biological versatility presented by the indole-diterpene group of compounds and their role in an agricultural and pharmaceutical setting.
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