Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Prototype of an intertwined secondary-metabolite supercluster.

PMID 24082142


The hallmark trait of fungal secondary-metabolite gene clusters is well established, consisting of contiguous enzymatic and often regulatory gene(s) devoted to the production of a metabolite of a specific chemical class. Unexpectedly, we have found a deviation from this motif in a subtelomeric region of Aspergillus fumigatus. This region, under the control of the master regulator of secondary metabolism, LaeA, contains, in its entirety, the genetic machinery for three natural products (fumitremorgin, fumagillin, and pseurotin), where genes for fumagillin and pseurotin are physically intertwined in a single supercluster. Deletions of 29 adjoining genes revealed that fumagillin and pseurotin are coregulated by the supercluster-embedded regulatory gene with biosynthetic genes belonging to one of the two metabolic pathways in a noncontiguous manner. Comparative genomics indicates the fumagillin/pseurotin supercluster is maintained in a rapidly evolving region of diverse fungal genomes. This blended design confounds predictions from established secondary-metabolite cluster search algorithms and provides an expanded view of natural product evolution.