Isolation, (bio)synthetic studies and evaluation of antimicrobial properties of drimenol-type sesquiterpenes of Termitomyces fungi.
Macrotermitinae termites have farmed fungi in the genus Termitomyces as a food source for millions of years. However, the biochemical mechanisms orchestrating this mutualistic relationship are largely unknown. To deduce fungal signals and ecological patterns that relate to the stability of this symbiosis, we explored the volatile organic compound (VOC) repertoire of Termitomyces from Macrotermes natalensis colonies. Results show that mushrooms emit a VOC pattern that differs from mycelium grown in fungal gardens and laboratory cultures. The abundance of sesquiterpenoids from mushrooms allowed targeted isolation of five drimane sesquiterpenes from plate cultivations. The total synthesis of one of these, drimenol, and related drimanes assisted in structural and comparative analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and antimicrobial activity testing. Enzyme candidates putatively involved in terpene biosynthesis were heterologously expressed and while these were not involved in the biosynthesis of the complete drimane skeleton, they catalyzed the formation of two structurally related monocyclic sesquiterpenes named nectrianolins.