Claviceps paspali is used in the pharmaceutical industry for the production of ergot alkaloids. This fungus also biosynthesizes paspalitrems, indole diterpene (IDT) mycotoxins that cause significant economic losses in agriculture and represent safety concerns for ergot alkaloid manufacture. Here, we use Agrobacterium-mediated transformation to replace the idtP and the idtF genes in the IDT biosynthetic gene cluster of C. paspali with a selectable marker gene. We show that the ΔidtP knockout mutant produces paspaline, the first IDT intermediate of the pathway. The ΔidtF strain produces unprenylated IDTs such as paspalinine and paspaline. These experiments validate the function of idtP as the gene encoding the cytochrome P450 monooxygenase that oxidizes and demethylates paspaline to produce 13-desoxypaxilline, and that of idtF as the gene that encodes the α-prenyltransferase that prenylates paspalinine at the C20 or the C21 positions to yield paspalitrems A and C, respectively. In addition, we also show that axenic cultures of the wild type, the ΔidtP and the ΔidtF mutant C. paspali strains fail to produce an assembly of IDTs that are present in C. paspali–Paspalum spp. associations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas