Several fungi in two different families––the Clavicipitaceae and the Trichocomaceae––produce different profiles of ergot alkaloids, many of which are important in agriculture and medicine. All ergot alkaloid producers share early steps before their pathways diverge to produce different end products. EasA, an oxidoreductase of the old yellow enzyme class, has alternate activities in different fungi resulting in branching of the pathway. Enzymes beyond the branch point differ among lineages. In the Clavicipitaceae, diversity is generated by the presence or absence and activities of lysergyl peptide synthetases, which interact to make lysergic acid amides and ergopeptines. The range of ergopeptines in a fungus may be controlled by the presence of multiple peptide synthetases as well as by the specificity of individual peptide synthetase domains. In the Trichocomaceae, diversity is generated by the presence or absence of the prenyl transferase encoded by easL
(also called fgaPT1
). Moreover, relaxed specificity of EasL appears to contribute to ergot alkaloid diversification. The profile of ergot alkaloids observed within a fungus also is affected by a delayed flux of intermediates through the pathway, which results in an accumulation of intermediates or early pathway byproducts to concentrations comparable to that of the pathway end product.
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