November 20, 2007

Amanitin Gene Family Paper Finally Available

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchFor those who have been waiting a week now, the Hallen et al. paper on the novel pathway for producing amanitin and other cyclic peptides (reviewed here) is finally available on the PNAS Early Edition site.

I've no idea why it took so long to appear.

My co-researchers and I have been discussing the findings for days. As our lab does the majority of its work in clarifying the evolutionary relationships of fungi, our thoughts have tended to questions regarding how the new pathway arose. It's such a big change from the usual way in which fungi produce similar compounds that it's hard to conceive of the switch happening all at once. Surely this must have been the result of a series of changes, and finding how it arose is simply a matter of looking in the right places. Since we don't find this in other, closely-related genera, it's relatively safe to assume that the change occurred as part of the rise of the ancestor of the 30 species making up Phalloidaceae. So, where are they?

Like many good works of science, the answer to one question in this paper opens up lines of inquiry for solving more. Perhaps next year we'll get someone in the lab who has the time to work on this question, or maybe someone out there is already on it. I'm not even sure what an intermediate step in the evolution of this situation would look like. It'd be a fascinating find, to be certain.

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