International effort will help catalog an unsung group of organisms
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — With grant funding from the Department of Energy, researchers with the U.S. Forest Service and other institutions say they’re ready to start sequencing 1,000 fungal genomes.
The five-year project is part of an effort to learn more about unsung organisms that are key to everything from carbon cycling to production of life-saving drugs, including old-fashioned wonder drugs such as penicillin — as well as best sellers such as the cholesterol-lowering statins and the immunosuppresant ciclosporins, which make organ transplants possible. Fungi are also used in various myco-remediation projects and, in some cases, for preventive forest health treatments.
Dan Lindner, a research plant pathologist with the Northern Research Station’s Center for Forest Mycology Research, is one of 13 scientists participating in the ’1000 Fungal Genomes’ project, which will sequence two species from every known fungal family. The project is a first step in creating an encyclopedia of all fungi, which will one day help researchers understand not only what they do, but how fungi operate.
Fungi are also crucial for the production of quality of life products like chocolate, beer and specialty cheeses, such as brie and gorgonzola. There are an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million species of fungi; only about 100,000 species have a name.
“They are so important in so many ways, and we have so much to learn about them,” Lindner said. “We know the tip of the iceberg.”
The Center for Forest Mycology Research will provide approximately 200 of the 1,000 species to be sequenced, with the remaining 800 species provided by four other major culture collections from around the world. The center’s ollection includes 20,000 cultures from 1,600 species of fungi.
“It’s an incredible resource,” Lindner said. “As far as we know, it’s the world’s largest collection of wood-inhabiting fungi.”
The CFMR culture collection is comprised mainly of Basidiomycetes, or club fungi, which includes the types of fungi that form mushrooms. These fungi play many critical roles in forests, from species that protect tree roots to species that decompose wood to destructive forest pathogens that actively kill trees. Researchers at the CFMR will grow the fungi and isolate the DNA for sequencing by the DOE’s Joint Genome Institute.
The 1000 Fungal Genomes project involves an international team of researchers lead by Oregon State University scientist Joseph Spatafora. Team members include Lindner, scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, and scientists from universities in the United States, the Netherlands, and France.
Supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science, the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s Community Sequencing Program enables scientists from universities and national laboratories around the world to probe the hidden world of microbes and plants for innovative solutions to the nation’s major challenges in energy, climate, and environment.
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, forests, Summit County news, US Forest Service Tagged: | biodiversity, Environment, fungal genome sequencing, fungi, Joint Genome Institute, Oregon State University, Summit County News