mSphere 2019 09 25;4(5). Epub 2019 Sep 25.
Department of Plant Pathology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA
The polyketide-derived secondary metabolite ascochitine is produced by species in the Didymellaceae family, including but not restricted to species pathogens of cool-season food legumes. Ascochitine is structurally similar to the well-known mycotoxin citrinin and exhibits broad-spectrum phytotoxicity and antimicrobial activities. Here, we identified a polyketide synthase (PKS) gene (denoted ) responsible for ascochitine production in the filamentous fungus Deletion of the prevented production of ascochitine and its derivative ascochital in The putative ascochitine biosynthesis gene cluster comprises 11 genes that have undergone rearrangement and gain-and-loss events relative to the citrinin biosynthesis gene cluster in Interestingly, we also identified homologs in two recently diverged species, and var. , that are sister taxa closely related to ascochitine producers such as and However, nonsense mutations have been independently introduced in coding sequences of the homologs of and var. that resulted in loss of ascochitine production. Despite its reported phytotoxicity, ascochitine was not a pathogenicity factor in infection and colonization of faba bean ( L.). Ascochitine was mainly produced from mature hyphae at the site of pycnidial formation, suggesting a possible protective role of the compound against other microbial competitors in nature. This report highlights the evolution of gene clusters harnessing the structural diversity of polyketides and a mechanism with the potential to alter secondary metabolite profiles via single nucleotide polymorphisms in closely related fungal species. Fungi produce a diverse array of secondary metabolites, many of which are of pharmacological importance whereas many others are noted for mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin and citrinin, that can threaten human and animal health. The polyketide-derived compound ascochitine, which is structurally similar to citrinin mycotoxin, has been considered to be important for pathogenicity of legume-associated species. Here, we identified the ascochitine polyketide synthase (PKS) gene in and its neighboring genes that may be involved in ascochitine biosynthesis. Interestingly, the ascochitine PKS genes in other legume-associated species have been mutated, encoding truncated PKSs. This indicated that point mutations may have contributed to genetic diversity for secondary metabolite production in these fungi. We also demonstrated that ascochitine is not a pathogenicity factor in The antifungal activities and production of ascochitine during sporulation suggested that it may play a role in competition with other saprobic fungi in nature.