• mycotoxins;
  • polyketides;
  • biosynthetic mechanism;
  • fungal metabolites


Polyketides (PKs) are a large group of natural products produced by microorganisms and plants. They are biopolymers of acetate and other short carboxylates and are biosynthesized by multifunctional enzymes called polyketide synthases (PKSs). This review discusses the biosynthesis of four toxic PK, aflatoxins, fumonisins, ochratoxins (OTs), and zearalenone. These metabolites are structurally diverse and differ in their mechanisms of toxicity. However, they are all of concern in food safety and agriculture because of their toxic properties and their frequent accumulation in crops used for food and feed. The focus is on the recent advancements in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms for the biosynthesis of these mycotoxins. Several of the mycotoxin PKSs have been genetically and biochemically studied while other PKSs remain to be investigated. Multiple post-PKS modifications are often required for the maturation of the mycotoxins. Many of these modification steps for aflatoxins and fumonisins are well established while the post-PKS modifications for zearalenone and OTs remain to be biochemically characterized. More efforts are needed to completely illustrate the biosynthetic mechanisms for this important group of PKs. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Biopolymers 93: 764–776, 2010.