Ergot alkaloids are nitrogen-containing natural products belonging to indole alkaloids. The best known producers are fungi of the phylum Ascomycota, e.g., Claviceps
species. According to their structures, ergot alkaloids can be divided into three groups: clavines, lysergic acid amides and peptides (ergopeptines). All of them share the first biosynthetic steps, which lead to the formation of the tetracyclic ergoline ring system (except the simplest, tricyclic compound: chanoclavine). Different modifications on the ergoline ring by specific enzymes result in an abundance of bioactive natural products, which are used as pharmaceutical drugs or precursors thereof. From the 1950s through to recent years, most of the biosynthetic pathways have been elucidated. Gene clusters from several ergot alkaloid producers have been identified by genome mining and the functions of many of those genes have been demonstrated by knock-out experiments or biochemical investigations of the overproduced enzymes.
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