Many sequencing projects at the DOE JGI focus on identifying enzymes in organisms such as fungi that can break down cellulose in plant mass to help bring down the cost of biofuel production.
As DOE JGI Fungal Genomics Program head Igor Grigoriev noted, “When we go into a forest we don’t see layers of dead branches because wood decay fungi take care of them. So when we think about bioenergy and degrading biomass and converting that into biofuel, we would like to learn the most efficient ways of doing that from fungi, which have invented many ways of doing that in nature.”
|Schizophyllum commune, also known as split-gill fungus. (Credit: Carla Wick)|
As published online July 11, 2010 in Nature Biotechnology, Grigoriev and colleagues reported on the 38.5 million-base genome of the white rot fungus Schizophyllum commune, commonly known as the split-gill fungus. S. commune is the third wood-decaying fungus to be sequenced by the DOE JGI; the first white rot fungus sequenced was Phanerochaete chrysosporium in 2004 and the first brown rot fungus, Postia placenta, was sequenced in 2009.
Grigoriev said the DOE JGI has 40 fungal genome sequencing projects in queue, and more than a dozen of them involve wood-decaying fungi. “We think we’re only touching the surface and we need to look at more genomes in order to understand the whole scope of diversity and mechanisms applied to degrading cellulose.”
According to the Genomes OnLine Database, the DOE JGI is responsible for more than a third of all fungal genomes sequenced or in the queue to be sequenced worldwide.