Genome sequence and secondary metabolites of Cordyceps militaris, an insect pathogenic fungus and traditional medicine

Glenna Kramer Jing Li Stefanie Mak Justin Nodwell
Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Cordyceps are a genera of insect pathogenic fungi which are renowned for their utility in traditional medicine. These fungi follow a fascinating lifecycle in which they infect their host and use the host as a nutrient reservoir for mycelial growth. During this process, the fungus often exhibits a behaviour modifying effect on the host, causing it to perish in a location ideal for fungal fruiting body growth and spore dispersal, a process that is potentially small molecule mediated. We have assembled the first chromosome level genome sequence of a fungus from this genus, Cordyceps militaris, which reveals the potential for a large number of uncharacterized secondary metabolites. In our work moving forward, we are applying traditional bioactivity screening and small molecule isolation techniques along with genome mining and heterologous expression to identify and characterize specific natural products from this and other fungi in the Cordyceps genera.