Diversity of sesquiterpene synthases in the basidiomycete Coprinus cinereus

Sean Agger, Fernando Lopez-Gallego, Claudia Schmidt-Dannert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Fungi are a rich source of bioactive secondary metabolites, and mushroom-forming fungi (Agaricomycetes) are especially known for the synthesis of numerous bioactive and often cytotoxic sesquiterpenoid secondary metabolites. Compared with the large number of sesquiterpene synthases identified in plants, less than a handful of unique sesquiterpene synthases have been described from fungi. Here we describe the functional characterization of six sesquiterpene synthases (Cop1 to Cop6) and two terpene-oxidizing cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (Cox1 and Cox2) from Coprinus cinereus. The genes were cloned and, except for cop5, functionally expressed in Escherichia coli and/or Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Cop1 and Cop2 each synthesize germacrene A as the major product. Cop3 was identified as an α-muurolene synthase, an enzyme that has not been described previously, while Cop4 synthesizes δ-cadinene as its major product. Cop6 was originally annotated as a trichodiene synthase homologue but instead was found to catalyse the highly specific synthesis of α-cuprenene. Coexpression of cop6 and the two monooxygenase genes next to it yields oxygenated α-cuprenene derivatives, including cuparophenol, suggesting that these genes encode the enzymes for the biosynthesis of antimicrobial quinone sesquiterpenoids (known as lagopodins) that were previously isolated from C. cinereus and other Coprinus species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1181-1195
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2009


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