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?
- Moderate Pot Use By Adolescents Doesn't Hurt IQ
- Science Left Behind: The Anti-Vaccine Update Update
- Finding Fracking Fluids In The Environment
- Ashes And Vegetables: The Diet Of Roman Gladiators Was Rather Poor
- Dopamine Receptor Agonist Drugs Linked To Gambling And Hypersexuality
- Manly Men And Feminine Women Are Not Evolutionary Mandates - They Are Urban Ones
- What's Hiding Under The Clouds Of Venus - Heavy Metal Frost?
- "http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/HPV/index.html says no interesting difference in side..."
- "This article supports the idea that I state as follows: Nobody chooses their religion or world..."
- "Not mine, many post anon cuz if you block by IP you'll surely block by name. BTW I've posted all..."
- "California voting is variable? No, it isn't, redistricting pushed the 36% of the state that are..."
- "I am quite familiar with California's immunization uptake data, which is reported annually for..."
- An end to fat shaming? The 50 year DNA mystery of metabolic dysfunction may soon be solved
- Egg freezing: a smart career move?
- Despite resistance, China will dominate future of GMOs
- Should Science and Nature run advertorial by wacky Dr. Bronner’s that misleads on GMOs?
- Jack the Ripper’s identity remains a mystery after error in DNA analysis revealed
- Seed patent primer: Is the use of GMOs preventing farmers from reusing their seeds?
- Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes
- When the isthmus is an island: Madison's hottest, and coldest, spots
- Researchers identify new cell signaling pathway thought to play role in rheumatoid arthritis
- In disease outbreak management, flexibility can save lives and money
- Flexibility in disease outbreak management could save lives and money