Filamentous fungi help decay plant material, a process which has applications for producing biofuels and other products. The model organism for filamentous fungi is Neurospora tetrasperma.
Neurospora tetrasperma rosette (Image by Namboori B. Raju, Stanford University)
Selected for the DOE JGI’s 2007 Community Sequencing Program, the fungi is of interest to researchers such as studying lignin degradation, and its genome allows for broader comparative analyses with other organisms that range in genomic divergence by nearly 100 million years.
Understanding the genomic consequences of fungal inbreeding also provides researchers with insights into how the fungi interact with and respond to environmental changes.
In the September 1, 2011 issue of Genetics, a team led by DOE JGI collaborator and UC Berkeley professor John Taylor and his graduate student Chris Ellison compared two N. tetrasperma strains of opposite mating types, both sequenced, assembled and annotated at the DOE JGI using tools developed at the Institute such as GapResolution and the MycoCosmannotation pipeline.
One area of interest was the region surrounding the fungi’s sex chromosomes, in which DNA recombination has been prevented, making the fungi self-fertile and which could have implications in potentially reduce Neurospora’s ability to fix adaptive mutations. Interested in understanding how this noncombining region is maintained, the researchers found that in one strain, this region was accumulating excess deleterious substitutions, which suggests the fungal strain is in the early stages of degeneration.