Comparison of loline alkaloid gene clusters across fungal endophytes: Predicting the co-regulatory sequence motifs and the evolutionary history
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LOL, a fungal secondary metabolite gene cluster found in Epichloë and Neotyphodium species, is responsible for production of insecticidal loline alkaloids. To analyze the genetic architecture and to predict the evolutionary history of LOL, we compared five clusters from four fungal species (single clusters from Epichloë festucae, Neotyphodium sp. PauTG-1, Neotyphodium coenophialum, and two clusters we previously characterized in Neotyphodium uncinatum). Using PhyloCon to compare putative lol gene promoter regions, we have identified four motifs conserved across the lol genes in all five clusters. Each motif has significant similarity to known fungal transcription factor binding sites in the TRANSFAC database. Conservation of these motifs is further support for the hypothesis that the lol genes are co-regulated. Interestingly, the history of asexual Neotyphodium spp. includes multiple interspecific hybridization events. Comparing clusters from three Neotyphodium species and E. festucae allowed us to determine which Epichloë ancestors are the most likely contributors of LOL in these asexual species. For example, while no present day Epichloë typhina isolates are known to produce lolines, our data support the hypothesis that the E. typhina ancestor(s) of three asexual endophyte species contained a LOL gene cluster. Thus, these data support a model of evolution in which the polymorphism in loline alkaloid production phenotypes among endophyte species is likely due to the loss of the trait over time.
author list (cited authors)
Kutil, B. L., Greenwald, C., Liu, G., Spiering, M. J., Schardl, C. L., & Wilkinson, H. H.