Aspergillus fumigatus is a versatile fungus able to successfully exploit diverse environments from mammalian lungs to agricultural waste products. Among its many fitness attributes are dozens of genetic loci containing biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) producing bioactive small molecules (often referred to as secondary metabolites or natural products) that provide growth advantages to the fungus dependent on environment. Here we summarize the current knowledge of these BGCs-18 of which can be named to product-their expression profiles in vivo, and which BGCs may enhance virulence of this opportunistic human pathogen. Furthermore, we find extensive evidence for the presence of many of these BGCs, or similar BGCs, in distantly related genera including the emerging pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of white-nose syndrome in bats, and suggest such BGCs may be predictive of pathogenic potential in other fungi.This article is part of the themed issue 'Tackling emerging fungal threats to animal health, food security and ecosystem resilience'.
Keywords: Aspergillus fumigatus; fungal infection; gene cluster; secondary metabolism.
© 2016 The Author(s).