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?
- A Vegetarian Carnivorous Plant...Wait, What?
- Family Holiday Survival: 12 Ways To Deal With That Climate Change Denier
- Enlightenment Finding Eternity In The Now
- Challenges for Orion and SLS: An Interview with GAO Director
- Ocean Acidification, The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem
- How Does Prostate Cancer Happen?
- The Evolution Of Trichromatic Color Vision In Humans
- "Another 'herbs cure cancer' spammer. Obat Kanker Usus Alami (not verified) linked web page..."
- "Poe, Godwin, and now gish-gallop.Step 1 - Read Arrhenius On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the..."
- "I’m really inspired along with your writing skills as neatly as with the layout in your blog..."
- "Not being a climate scientist, my impression is that climate science is similar to psychology in..."
- "Poe or Godwin ?..."
- Radiologist recommendations for chest CT have high clinical yield
- Bone loss drugs may help prevent endometrial cancer
- Consumer purchases of cakes, cookies and pies have decreased by 24 percent
- IMF lending undermined healthcare provision in Ebola-stricken West Africa
- Orphan receptor proteins deliver double whammy to glioblastoma cells