Research Topic

Fungal Jewels: Secondary Metabolites

About this Research Topic

Natural products or secondary metabolites produced by fungi are of intense research interest due to their bioactive properties as well as their extreme variability in chemical structure. There is a broad range of biological activities of fungal secondary metabolites that include antibiotics, antivirals, ...

Natural products or secondary metabolites produced by fungi are of intense research interest due to their bioactive properties as well as their extreme variability in chemical structure. There is a broad range of biological activities of fungal secondary metabolites that include antibiotics, antivirals, antimycotics, antiprotozoans, cytotoxics and immunosuppressives, which make them extremely important for medicine, pharmaceutical and food industry applications. Many secondary metabolites act as virulence factors in plant and human pathogenic fungi, others act as protectants against other organisms or abiotic stress (e.g. UV shields). Conservative estimates propose there are at least five million fungal species in our ecosystem and given that each fungus has the potential to produce a plethora of different secondary metabolites with distinct physiological properties, the prospective benefit of fungal small molecules is immense. Aided by the recent availability of many fungal genome sequences, we have discovered that genes responsible for producing secondary metabolites in fungi are often physically grouped into contiguous regulatory gene clusters. This discovery has opened the door for interesting scientific queries, such as pairing specific secondary metabolite clusters to their cognate small molecules as well as the role of global regulators of secondary metabolism.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the discovery of an important global regulator of secondary metabolism, LaeA, we would like to take this opportunity to review what has been learned about secondary metabolism in fungi in this Research Topic of Frontiers in Genetics. This Research Topic will put a spotlight on recent advances in the field and provide a framework for future directions aimed at elucidating and exploiting fungal secondary metabolism. As such, this Research Topic contains: synthetic biology approaches and heterologous systems for secondary metabolites, genomic mining for novel gene cluster discoveries, ecology of secondary metabolites, connection of secondary metabolism to development and stress responses, cross-talk of metabolites, next generation applications in cluster discoveries, virulence factors and genetic/epigenetic regulation of secondary metabolite gene clusters. The better understanding of the overall mechanisms leading to production of these natural products will facilitate the utilization and applications of their vast potential in medicine, food production, pharmacology and biotechnology. Therefore, the reviews and perspectives in this Research Topic cover a broad range of secondary metabolite research to give the readers a flexible concept and attract more public attention to the potential applications of the fungal natural products in the near future.


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