Fungal entomopathogens rely on cellular heterogeneity during the different stages of insect host infection. Their pathogenicity is exhibited through the secretion of secondary metabolites, which implies that the infection life history of this group of environmentally important fungi can be revealed using metabolomics. Here metabolomic analysis in combination with ex vivo insect tissue culturing shows that two generalist isolates of the genus Metarhizium and Beauveria, commonly used as biological pesticides, employ significantly different arrays of secondary metabolites during infectious and saprophytic growth. It also reveals that both fungi exhibit tissue specific strategies by a distinguishable metabolite secretion on the insect tissues tested in this study. In addition to showing the important heterogeneous nature of these two entomopathogens, this study also resulted in the discovery of several novel destruxins and beauverolides that have not been described before, most likely because previous surveys did not use insect tissues as a culturing system. While Beauveria secreted these cyclic depsipeptides when encountering live insect tissues, Metarhizium employed them primarily on dead tissue. This implies that, while these fungi employ comparable strategies when it comes to entomopathogenesis, there are most certainly significant differences at the molecular level that deserve to be studied.
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