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Controlling a Structural Branch Point in Ergot Alkaloid Biosynthesis

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  • Biology
  • Pharmacology


The ergot alkaloids are a diverse class of fungal-derived indole alkaloid natural products with potent pharmacological activities. The biosynthetic intermediate chanoclavine-I aldehyde 1 represents a branch point in ergot biosynthesis. Ergot alkaloids festuclavine 2 and agroclavine 3 derive from alternate enzymatic pathways originating from the common biosynthetic precursor chanoclavine-I aldehyde 1. Here we show that while the Old Yellow Enzyme homolog EasA from the ergot biosynthetic gene cluster of Aspergillus fumigatus acts on chanoclavine-I aldehyde 1 to yield festuclavine 2, EasA from Neotyphodium lolii, in contrast, produces agroclavine 3. Mutational analysis suggests a mechanistic rationale for the switch in activity that controls this critical branch point of ergot alkaloid biosynthesis.

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