Science (New York, N.Y.). 2018-09-28; 361.6409: 1356-1358.

Biosynthesis of the neurotoxin domoic acid in a bloom-forming diatom

Brunson JK, McKinnie SMK, Chekan JR, McCrow JP, Miles ZD, Bertrand EM, Bielinski VA, Luhavaya H, ObornĂ­k M, Smith GJ, Hutchins DA, Allen AE, Moore BS

PMID: 30262498


Oceanic harmful algal blooms of diatoms produce the potent mammalian neurotoxin domoic acid (DA). Despite decades of research, the molecular basis for its biosynthesis is not known. By using growth conditions known to induce DA production in , we implemented transcriptome sequencing in order to identify DA biosynthesis genes that colocalize in a genomic four-gene cluster. We biochemically investigated the recombinant DA biosynthetic enzymes and linked their mechanisms to the construction of DA's diagnostic pyrrolidine skeleton, establishing a model for DA biosynthesis. Knowledge of the genetic basis for toxin production provides an orthogonal approach to bloom monitoring and enables study of environmental factors that drive oceanic DA production.