Ergot alkaloids of the family clavicipitaceae

Simona Florea, Daniel G. Panaccione, Christopher L. Schardl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Ergot alkaloids are highly diverse in structure, exhibit diverse effects on animals, and are produced by diverse fungi in the phylum Ascomycota, including pathogens and mutualistic symbionts of plants. These mycotoxins are best known from the fungal family Clavicipitaceae and are named for the ergot fungi that, through millennia, have contaminated grains and caused mass poisonings, with effects ranging from dry gangrene to convulsions and death. However, they are also useful sources of pharmaceuticals for a variety of medical purposes. More than a half-century of research has brought us extensive knowledge of ergot-Alkaloid biosynthetic pathways from common early steps to several taxon-specific branches. Furthermore, a recent flurry of genome sequencing has revealed the genomic processes underlying ergot-Alkaloid diversification. In this review, we discuss the evolution of ergot-Alkaloid biosynthesis genes and gene clusters, including roles of gene recruitment, duplication and neofunctionalization, as well as gene loss, in diversifying structures of clavines, lysergic acid amides, and complex ergopeptines. Also reviewed are prospects for manipulating ergot-Alkaloid profiles to enhance suitability of endophytes for forage grasses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-518
Number of pages15
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work of the authors described herein was supported by grant 2012-67013-19384 from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, grant KSEF-148- 502-09-247 from the Kentucky Science and Technology Co., Inc., and grant R15-GM114774 from the National Institutes of Health. This is publication number 17-12-010 of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, published with approval of the director.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The American Phytopathological Society.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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