Fungi, particularly those found in the digestive tracts of ruminant herbivores such as cattle, sheep, and goats, are very good at overcoming the resistance of plant cell walls to degradation—a major hurdle in the quest to produce sustainable fuels and chemicals from bioenergy feedstocks. Now, an international group of researchers has identified protein scaffolds in anaerobic gut fungi that provide docking sites for various enzymes, keeping them in place so that they can work together more effectively. As reported in the May 26 issue of Nature Microbiology, the structures are analogous to cellulosome complexes in anerobic bacteria, but this is the first time they have been found in fungi.
Just four letters – A, C, T, and G – make up an organism’s genetic code. Changing a single letter, or base, can lead to changes in protein structures and functions, impacting an organism’s traits. In addition, though, subtler changes can and do happen, involving modifications of the DNA bases themselves. In the May 8, 2017 issue of Nature Genetics, a team led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, report the prevalence of modifications in the earliest branches of the fungal kingdom. Read more in the JGI press release.
In the world of fungi, Aspergillus is an industrial superstar, playing a critical role in biofuel production, and plant and human health, among other applications. But the majority of its 350 species has yet to be sequenced. A team including JGI researchers sequenced the genomes of 10 novel Aspergillus species, more than doubling the number of Aspergillus species sequenced to date. Read more in the JGI News Release.
“Very little is known about basal fungi such as Mucoromycotina and genomics may be the most efficient way to understand their metabolism. Many members of this phyla show very high sensitivity to environmental signals, which when understood could be used for natural control of some of these metabolic processes.”
In Current Biology, an international consortium led by DOE JGI researchers sequenced and annotated Mucoromycotina genomes, specifically those of Phycomyces blakesleeanus and its relative Mucor circinelloides. Sensory perception lies at the heart of adaptation to changing conditions, and helps fungi to improve growth and recycle organic waste, and to know when and how to infect a plant or animal host. These new results shed light on the evolution of sensory perception in fungi. Read more about this on the DOE JGI website.