Tremorgenic and neurotoxic paspaline-derived indole-diterpenes: biosynthetic diversity, threats and applications

  • László Kozák
  • Zoltán Szilágyi
  • László Tóth
  • István PócsiEmail author
  • István MolnárEmail author


Indole-diterpenes (IDTs) such as the aflatrems, janthitrems, lolitrems, paspalitrems, penitrems, shearinines, sulpinines, and terpendoles are biogenetically related but structurally varied tremorgenic and neurotoxic mycotoxins produced by fungi. All these metabolites derive from the biosynthetic intermediate paspaline, a frequently occurring IDT on its own right. In this comprehensive review, we highlight the similarities and differences of the IDT biosynthetic pathways that lead to the generation of the main paspaline-derived IDT subgroups. We survey the taxonomic distribution and the regulation of IDT production in various fungi and compare the organization of the known IDT biosynthetic gene clusters. A detailed assessment of the highly diverse biological activities of these mycotoxins leads us to emphasize the significant losses that paspaline-derived IDTs cause in agriculture, and compels us to warn about the various hazards they represent towards human and livestock health. Conversely, we also describe the potential utility of these versatile molecules as lead compounds for pharmaceutical drug discovery, and examine the prospects for their industrial scale manufacture in genetically manipulated IDT producers or domesticated host microorganisms in synthetic biological production systems.


Indole-diterpene Fungal secondary metabolite Biosynthesis Mycotoxin Food and feed safety Drug discovery Heterologous production 


Funding information

This work was supported by the European Union and the European Social Fund through the project EFOP-3.6.1-16-2016-00022 (to I. P.), the Higher Education Institutional Excellence Program of the Ministry of Human Capacities in Hungary (Biotechnology thematic program to I. P. and I. M.) and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIGMS 5R01GM114418 to I. M.).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

I. P. declares no conflict of interests. I. M. has disclosed financial interests in Teva Pharmaceuticals Works Ltd., Hungary, and DSM Nutritional Products, LLC, USA, which are unrelated to the subject of the research presented here. L. K., Z. S., and L. T. are employees of Teva Pharmaceutical Works Ltd., Hungary. Responsibility for the conclusions drawn, and the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and are not shared by Teva Pharmaceutical Works Ltd.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the Authors.

Supplementary material

253_2018_9594_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (518 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 517 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Biotechnology and Microbiology, Institute of Biotechnology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyUniversity of DebrecenDebrecenHungary
  2. 2.Teva Pharmaceutical Works Ltd.DebrecenHungary
  3. 3.Southwest Center for Natural Products Research, School of Natural Resources and the EnvironmentUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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