Pestalotiopsis Guepinii, A Taxol-producing Endophyte Of The Wollemi Pine, Wollemia Nobilis
Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi pine), an araucariaceous plant, whose closest known relatives are from the Jurassic period, occurs in the Wollemi National Park near Sydney, Australia. This tree is host to many endophytic fungi, including Pestalotiopsis guepinii which produces taxol, an important anticancer drug. It was shown by immunological, spectroscopic and chromatographic means to be identical with authentic taxol obtained from Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew). Since the Wollemi pine does not produce taxol, how might a taxol-producing fungus be present in this unusual tree? Spores of P. guepinii possess several appendages which strongly interact with hydrophobic surfaces including plastics and the pinnae of birds’ feathers. Scanning electron microscopy of the conidia of P. guepinii clearly shows the spores on the feathers of a green-checked conure and a cockatiel. Conceivably, the fungus may have acquired the ability to produce taxol from a foreign or local yew and then is carried to the Wollemi pine site by native birds.