Mycotoxins: A Fungal Genomics Perspective

The chemical and enzymatic diversity in the fungal kingdom is staggering. Large-scale fungal genome sequencing projects are generating a massive catalog of secondary metabolite biosynthetic genes and pathways. Fungal natural products are a boon and bane to man as valuable pharmaceuticals and harmful toxins. Understanding how these chemicals are synthesized will aid the development of new strategies to limit mycotoxin contamination of food and feeds as well as expand drug discovery programs. A survey of work focused on the fumonisin family of mycotoxins highlights technological advances and provides a blueprint for future studies of other fungal natural products. Expressed sequence tags led to the discovery of new fumonisin genes (FUM) and hinted at a role for alternatively spliced transcripts in regulation. Phylogenetic studies of FUM genes uncovered a complex evolutionary history of the FUM cluster, as well as fungi with the potential to synthesize fumonisin or fumonisin-like chemicals. The application of new technologies (e.g., CRISPR) could substantially impact future efforts to harness fungal resources.

Year prepared: