Fungi are key components of terrestrial ecosystems and help maintain the interactions between a myriad of species of animals, plants and bacteria that make up these environments. With the ability to thrive in a wide variety of ecological niches, fungi are essential to the global carbon cycle, and the enzymes and metabolites they produce are increasingly important in the development and production of renewable biofuels.
To better understand the breadth of the fungal kingdom and study the potential energy and environmental applications, the DOE JGI launched the Fungal Genomic Program, which is working toward the development of a Genomic Encyclopedia of Fungi.
As described in a letter published online March 14, 2011 in New Phytologist by DOE JGI’s Fungal Program head Igor Grigoriev and colleague Scott Baker with long-time DOE JGI fungal genomics collaborators, the genomic encyclopedia initiative targets fungi involved in plant health, biorefinery and fungal diversity. For example, 30 wood-decay fungi from 12 orders are part of this large-scale sequencing project, and another 10 genomes will fill in unrepresented lineages from the fungal tree of life.
“A more complete understanding of fungi and their potential application and benefit to human society is limited by current gaps in our sampling of genomes throughout the [fungal tree of life],” noted Grigoriev and his colleagues of their plans to use these and other selected genomes to be sequenced as “anchors” for future studies.