Discovery of branching meroterpenoid biosynthetic pathways in Aspergillus insuetus : Involvement of two terpene cyclases with distinct cyclization modes

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10361-10369
Journal / PublicationChemical Science
Issue number35
Online published17 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022



The aromatic polyketide 3,5-dimethylorsellinic acid (DMOA) serves as a precursor for many fungal meroterpenoids. A large portion of DMOA-derived meroterpenoids are biosynthesized via the cyclization of (6R,10′R)-epoxyfarnesyl-DMOA methyl ester (1). Theoretically, although 1 can be cyclized into many products, only three cyclization modes have been reported. Here, we discovered a meroterpenoid biosynthetic gene cluster in Aspergillus insuetus CBS 107.25, which encodes the biosynthetic enzymes for 1 along with a terpene cyclase that is phylogenetically distantly related to the other characterized cyclases of 1. Intriguingly, InsA7, the terpene cyclase, folds 1 in a pre-boat-chair conformation, generating a new meroterpenoid species with an axially oriented hydroxy group at C3. The A. insuetus strain also harbors an additional gene cluster encoding another cyclase of 1. The second terpene cyclase–InsB2–also synthesizes a new cyclized product of 1, thereby leading to diverging of the biosynthetic pathway in the fungus. Finally, we characterized the tailoring enzymes encoded by the two clusters, collectively obtained 17 new meroterpenoids, and successfully proposed biosynthetic routes leading to apparent end products of both pathways.

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