Fungi produce a number of natural products. Some are potent toxins, like the amanitins primarily responsible for the toxicity of the death cap fungus. Others are life-saving drugs such as penicillin. Because of that diversity, the genetics of fungi have generated much interest in recent years.
Many fungi have a wealth of genes encoding for far more natural products than they actually produce, says Robert Cichewicz and colleagues at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. The explanation is thought to be that when fungi do not need certain compounds, they inhibit the transcription of the DNA that codes for the proteins that make them, preventing their biosynthesis.
Knowing what these mystery compounds are could be very important for the development of new medicines, as well as for helping us to understand the ecological roles that fungi play, he says.
In a new study published in Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry they have shown that metabolic pathways that are normally ‘silent’ can be re-activated to make new compounds.
The DNA involved is inhibited by being scrunched up in a globular form called heterochromatin. To activate this DNA and turn on these ‘silent’ natural product pathways, the team decided to treat fungal cultures with small molecules that interfere with the formation of the heterochromatin – allowing the DNA to be transcripted.
To show their idea in action, the researchers took a culture of Cladosporium cladosporioides, a tidal pool fungus, and treated it separately with 5-azacytidine and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid. Both treatments, says Cichewicz, dramatically changed the natural product output of the fungus, with two completely new natural products being isolated.
The new approach impresses Jon Clardy at the Harvard Medical School, Boston, US, who says that it could ‘greatly expand the suite of biologically active small molecules obtained from fungi’ and that it ‘capitalises on recent developments in drug discovery to increase the odds of discovering new drugs’.
The results also have important implications for research into fungi and other microorganisms, explains Cichewicz. Natural products are the means by which fungi ‘communicate’ with organisms around them, so we are in essence, he says, ‘discovering chemical means for listening to what fungi are saying’.
Article: Russell Williams et al., Org. Biomol. Chem., 2008, DOI: 10.1039/b804701d
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Supersonic Laser-Propelled Aircraft Get A Step Closer
- Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk By Sleeping With Lots Of Women - But Not Men
- Homo Floresiensis: Hobbit Species Continues To Provoke Questions About Human Evolution
- Greenpeace Says Its GMOs Are Better Than Science's GMOs, Still Hates Golden Rice
- Okay With Disgusting Images? You Vote This Way 95 Percent Of The Time
- This Mid-Term Election Can Have Evolutionary Consequences
- 4 Things Needed To Make The Perfect Cup Of Coffee
- "Save Lives With Golden Rice..."
- "From Der_Wanderer The common ground of theist and atheist is that both are believers . That is..."
- "The common ground of theist and atheist is that both are believers . That is both from a high level..."
- "I ought to say just that its marvelous! how to buy twitter retweets..."
- "Anybody who is familiar with the worlds most famous abduction case, the Barney and Betty Hill abduction..."
- What’s so “natural” about “natural crop breeding”?
- Think you’ve got cancer? Google it!
- Mars bars for brain health? Not so fast
- Scientists rebuff Center for Food Safety report alleging chemicals in infant soy milk
- When you take your drugs might matter as much as what you’re taking
- Two Oregon papers join most others in urging “no” on mandatory GMO label vote
- Air quality and unconventional oil and gas sites
- Frailty increases kidney transplant recipients' risk of dying prematurely
- Cochrane news: Expectant mothers with epilepsy face tough choices over their medication
- Report: 93 percent of mining, oil & gas, logging, agriculture developments involve inhabited land
- Breast and colorectal cancers remain more aggressive in children