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Friendly Fungi: Elucidating the fungal biosynthesis of stipitatic acid

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In a tale worthy of Sherlock Holmes, scientists in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, UK have solved a biochemical mystery that had previously proven elusive for 70 years: How the fungus Talaromyces stipitatus produces stipitatic acid (6), which is a tropolone, one of an atypical group of fungal natural products – that is, small molecules produced by genetically encoded pathways – with a seven-carbon ring. (Most natural products, such as cholesterol or phenylalanine, have five or six carbons in rings.) The researchers used a two-part biosynthetic approach – gene deletion and alternate genetic expression – to investigate the molecular pathway in question.

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