Genetic potential of lichen-forming fungi in polyketide biosynthesis

Chooi, Y 2008, Genetic potential of lichen-forming fungi in polyketide biosynthesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Applied Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

Attached Files
Name Description MIMEType Size
Chooi.pdf Thesis application/pdf 6.72MB
Title Genetic potential of lichen-forming fungi in polyketide biosynthesis
Author(s) Chooi, Y
Year 2008
Abstract Lichens produce a diverse array of bioactive secondary metabolites, many of which are unique to the organisms. Their potential applications, however, are limited by their finite sources and the slow-growing nature of the organisms in both laboratory and environmental conditions. This thesis set out to investigate polyketide synthase genes in lichens, with the ultimate goal of providing a sustainable source of lichen natural products to support these applications.

To expand the diversity of PKS genes that could be detected in lichens, new degenerate primers targeting ketoacylsynthase (KS) domains of specific clades of PKS genes have been developed and tested on various lichen samples. Using these primers, 19 KS domains from various lichens were obtained. Phylogenetic analysis of the KS domains was used to infer the function of the PKS genes based on the predicted PKS domain architecture and chemical analysis by TLC and/or HPLC. KS domains from PKS clades not previously known in lichens were identified; this included the clade III NR (non-reducing)-PKSs, PR (partially reducing)-PKSs and HR (highly reducing)-PKSs. The discovery of clade III NR-PKSs with C-methyltransferase (CMeT) domain and their wide occurrence in lichens was especially significant. Based on the KS domain phylogenetic analysis and compounds detected in the individual lichens, the clade III NR-PKSs were hypothesized to be involved in the biosynthesis of β-orsellinic acid and methylphloroacetopheno ne - the monoaromatic precursors for many lichen coupled phenolic compounds, such as β-orcinol depsides/depsidones and usnic acid.

A strategy has been developed to isolate clade III NR-PKSs directly from environmental lichen DNA using clade III NR-type KS amplified from the degenerate primers (NR3KS-F/R) as homologous probes. Another pair of degenerate primers specific to the CMeT domain of NR-PKSs has also been developed to facilitate the cloning and probing of new clade III NR-PKS genes in lichens. A clade III NR-PKS gene (xsepks1) from X. semiviridis was cloned successfully. This is the first report of the isolation of a full-length PKS gene from environmental lichen DNA. The domain architecture of xsepks1 is KS-AT-ACP-CMeT, as expected for a clade III NR-PKS, suggesting that the newly developed clade-specific primers are useful for cloning new clade III NR-PKS genes and that KS domain phylogenetic analysis can predict the functional domains in PKSs.

Attempts were made to characterize the function of xsepks1 by heterologous expression in Aspergillus species. Both A. nidulans (transformed with 5´partial xsepks1 including native promoter) and A. oryzae (transformed with full-length xsepks1 under the regulation of starch-inducible amyB promoter) were tested as potential hosts for the expression of lichen PKS genes. Transcriptional analysis showed that A. nidulans could potentially utilize the lichen PKS gene promoter and both fungal hosts could splice the introns of a lichen PKS gene. Several compounds unique to the A. oryzae transformants carrying xsepks1 were detected, but they could not be reproduced in subsequent fermentations even though the gene was transcribed into mRNA. None of the expected products (β-orsellinic acid, methylphloroacetophenone or similar methylated monoaromatic compounds) was detected in A. oryzae transformants, and the function of xsepks1 remains to be determined. The other clade III NR-PKS genes detected in X. semiviridis cou ld also be responsible for the biosynthesis of β-orsellinic acid or methylphloroacetophenone, as precursors of the major secondary metabolites detected in X. semiviridis (i.e. fumarprotocetraric acid, succinprotocetraric acid and usnic acid).

Overall, the work in this thesis demonstrated the prospect of using a molecular approach to access the lichen biosynthetic potential without going through the cumbersome culturing stage.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Applied Sciences
Keyword(s) Lichens
Version Filter Type
Access Statistics: 415 Abstract Views, 2723 File Downloads  -  Detailed Statistics
Created: Mon, 29 Nov 2010, 16:09:00 EST by Catalyst Administrator
© 2014 RMIT Research Repository • Powered by Fez SoftwareContact us