New natural products isolated from Metarhizium robertsii ARSEF 23 by chemical screening and identification of the gene cluster through engineered biosynthesis in Aspergillus nidulans A1145

J Antibiot (Tokyo). 2016 Jul;69(7):561-6. doi: 10.1038/ja.2016.54. Epub 2016 May 18.


To rapidly identify novel natural products and their associated biosynthetic genes from underutilized and genetically difficult-to-manipulate microbes, we developed a method that uses (1) chemical screening to isolate novel microbial secondary metabolites, (2) bioinformatic analyses to identify a potential biosynthetic gene cluster and (3) heterologous expression of the genes in a convenient host to confirm the identity of the gene cluster and the proposed biosynthetic mechanism. The chemical screen was achieved by searching known natural product databases with data from liquid chromatographic and high-resolution mass spectrometric analyses collected on the extract from a target microbe culture. Using this method, we were able to isolate two new meroterpenes, subglutinols C (1) and D (2), from an entomopathogenic filamentous fungus Metarhizium robertsii ARSEF 23. Bioinformatics analysis of the genome allowed us to identify a gene cluster likely to be responsible for the formation of subglutinols. Heterologous expression of three genes from the gene cluster encoding a polyketide synthase, a prenyltransferase and a geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate synthase in Aspergillus nidulans A1145 afforded an α-pyrone-fused uncyclized diterpene, the expected intermediate of the subglutinol biosynthesis, thereby confirming the gene cluster to be responsible for the subglutinol biosynthesis. These results indicate the usefulness of our methodology in isolating new natural products and identifying their associated biosynthetic gene cluster from microbes that are not amenable to genetic manipulation. Our method should facilitate the natural product discovery efforts by expediting the identification of new secondary metabolites and their associated biosynthetic genes from a wider source of microbes.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus nidulans / enzymology
  • Aspergillus nidulans / genetics*
  • Aspergillus nidulans / metabolism
  • Biological Products / chemistry
  • Biological Products / isolation & purification
  • Biological Products / metabolism*
  • Cell Engineering
  • Databases, Chemical
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Genomics
  • Metarhizium / chemistry*
  • Metarhizium / metabolism
  • Secondary Metabolism / genetics
  • Terpenes / chemistry
  • Terpenes / isolation & purification
  • Terpenes / metabolism*


  • Biological Products
  • Terpenes