An Integrated Approach to Determine the Boundaries of the Azaphilone Pigment Biosynthetic Gene Cluster of Monascus ruber M7 Grown on Potato Dextrose Agar

Qingpei Liu, Siyu Zhong, Xinrui Wang, Shuaibiao Gao, Xiaolong Yang, Fusheng Chen, István Molnár

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Monascus-type azaphilone pigments (MonAzPs) are produced in multi-thousand ton quantities each year and used as food colorants and nutraceuticals in East Asia. Several groups, including ours, described MonAzPs biosynthesis as a highly complex pathway with many branch points, affording more than 110 MonAzP congeners in a small group of fungi in the Eurotiales order. MonAzPs biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) are also very complex and mosaic-like, with some genes involved in more than one pathway, while other genes playing no apparent role in MonAzPs production. Due to this complexity, MonAzPs BGCs have been delimited differently in various fungi. Since most of these predictions rely primarily on bioinformatic analyses, it is possible that genes immediately outside the currently predicted BGC borders are also involved, especially those whose function cannot be predicted from sequence similarities alone. Conversely, some peripheral genes presumed to be part of the BGC may in fact lay outside the boundaries. This study uses a combination of computational and transcriptional analyses to predict the extent of the MonAzPs BGC in Monascus ruber M7. Gene knockouts and analysis of MonAzPs production of the mutants are then used to validate the prediction, revealing that the BGC consists of 16 genes, extending from mrpigA to mrpigP. We further predict that two strains of Talaromyces marneffei, ATCC 18224 and PM1, encode an orthologous but non-syntenic MonAzPs BGC with 14 genes. This work highlights the need to use comprehensive, integrated approaches for the more precise determination of secondary metabolite BGC boundaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number680629
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Volume12
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 16 2021

Keywords

  • comparative genomics
  • gene cluster boundary
  • gene knockout
  • Monascus azaphilone pigment
  • transcription analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)

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