Genome analyses revealed in various basidiomycetes the existence of multiple genes for blue multi-copper oxidases (MCOs). Whole genomes are now available from saprotrophs, white rot and brown rot species, plant and animal pathogens and ectomycorrhizal species. Total numbers (from 1 to 17) and types of mco genes differ between analyzed species with no easy to recognize connection of gene distribution to fungal life styles. Types of mco genes might be present in one and absent in another fungus. Distinct types of genes have been multiplied at speciation in different organisms. Phylogenetic analysis defined different subfamilies of laccases sensu stricto (specific to Agaricomycetes), classical Fe2+-oxidizing Fet3-like ferroxidases, potential ferroxidases/laccases exhibiting either one or both of these enzymatic functions, enzymes clustering with pigment MCOs and putative ascorbate oxidases. Biochemically best described are laccases sensu stricto due to their proposed roles in degradation of wood, straw and plant litter and due to the large interest in these enzymes in biotechnology. However, biological functions of laccases and other MCOs are generally little addressed. Functions in substrate degradation, symbiontic and pathogenic intercations, development, pigmentation and copper homeostasis have been put forward. Evidences for biological functions are in most instances rather circumstantial by correlations of expression. Multiple factors impede research on biological functions such as difficulties of defining suitable biological systems for molecular research, the broad and overlapping substrate spectrum multi-copper oxidases usually possess, the low existent knowledge on their natural substrates, difficulties imposed by low expression or expression of multiple enzymes, and difficulties in expressing enzymes heterologously.
Keywords: Agaricomycetes, ascorbate oxidase, laccase, ferroxidase, fruiting body, melanin, pigment synthesis, wood decay, homeostasis, multi-copper oxidases (MCOs)
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