Agrocybe aegerita Serves as a Gateway for Identifying Sesquiterpene Biosynthetic Enzymes in Higher Fungi
Terpenoids constitute a structurally diverse group of natural products with wide applications in the pharmaceutical, nutritional, flavor and fragrance industries. Fungi are known to produce a large variety of terpenoids, yet fungal terpene synthases remain largely unexploited. Here, we report the sesquiterpene network and gene clusters of the black poplar mushroom Agrocybe aegerita. Among 11 putative sesquiterpene synthases (STSs) identified in its genome, nine are functional, including two novel synthases producing viridiflorol and viridiflorene. On this basis, an additional 1133 STS homologues from higher fungi have been curated and used for a sequence similarity network to probe isofunctional STS groups. With the focus on two STS groups, one producing viridiflorene/viridiflorol and one D6-protoilludene, the isofunctionality was probed and verified. Three new D6-protoilludene synthases and two new viridflorene/viridiflorol synthases from five different fungi were correctly predicted. The study herein serves as a fundamental predictive framework for the discovery of fungal STSs and biosynthesis of novel terpenoids. Furthermore, it becomes clear that fungal STS function differs between the phyla Ascomycota and Basidiomycota with the latter phylum being more dominant in the overall number and variability. This study aims to encourage the scientific community to further work on fungal STS and the products, biological functions, and potential applications of this vast source of natural products.