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Damien Fleetwood

Doctor of Philosophy, (Molecular Genetics)
Study Completed: 2007
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Molecular characterisation of the EAS gene cluster for ergot alkaloid biosynthesis in epichloe endophytes of grasses

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Mr Fleetwood characterised genetic determinants for the production of ergot alkaloids by epichloë fungal endophytes of pasture grasses. These alkaloids are thought to deter some insects from pastures but are also toxic to grazing stock. Mr Fleetwood isolated a cluster of eas genes proposed to be required for ergot alkaloid biosynthesis from the fungus. The research showed that this cluster was interspersed with many different, selfish, DNA elements and was linked with two previously identified ergot alkaloid genes. Functional research confirmed the role of one of the eas genes in ergot alkaloid biochemistry and provided insight into the gene’s regulation and the role of ergot alkaloids in insect feeding deterrence. The thesis provides a genetic foundation for understanding further biochemical steps in the ergot alkaloid pathway, the ecological role of individual alkaloid compounds and the evolution of eas genes and their regulation in the host plant

Professor Barry Scott
Dr Richard Johnson

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