Sesquiterpene synthase-3-hydroxy-3- methylglutaryl coenzyme A synthase fusion protein responsible for hirsutene biosynthesis in Stereum hirsutum

Christopher M. Flynn, Claudia Schmidt-Dannert

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23 Scopus citations


The wood-rotting mushroom Stereum hirsutum is a known producer of a large number of namesake hirsutenoids, many with important bioactivities. Hirsutenoids form a structurally diverse and distinct class of sesquiterpenoids. No genes involved in hirsutenoid biosynthesis have yet been identified or their enzymes characterized. Here, we describe the cloning and functional characterization of a hirsutene synthase as an unexpected fusion protein of a sesquiterpene synthase (STS) with a C-terminal 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA) synthase (HMGS) domain. Both the full-length fusion protein and truncated STS domain are highly product-specific 1,11-cyclizing STS enzymes with kinetic properties typical of STSs. Complementation studies in Saccharomyces cerevisiae confirmed that the HMGS domain is also functional in vivo. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the hirsutene synthase domain does not form a clade with other previously characterized sesquiterpene synthases from Basidiomycota. Comparative gene structure analysis of this hirsutene synthase with characterized fungal enzymes reveals a significantly higher intron density, suggesting that this enzyme may be acquired by horizontal gene transfer. In contrast, the HMGS domain is clearly related to other fungal homologs. This STS-HMGS fusion protein is part of a biosynthetic gene cluster that includes P450s and oxidases that are expressed and could be cloned from cDNA. Finally, this unusual fusion of a terpene synthase to an HMGS domain, which is not generally recognized as a key regulatory enzyme of the mevalonate isoprenoid precursor pathway, led to the identification of additional HMGS duplications in many fungal genomes, including the localization of HMGSs in other predicted sesquiterpenoid biosynthetic gene clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00036-18
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Society for Microbiology.


  • 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase (HMGS)
  • Basidiomycota
  • Hirsutene
  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Mevalonate pathway
  • Sesquiterpene synthase (STS)


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