Anaerobic fungi are found in the rumen or hindgut of large herbivores, where they partner naturally with methanogenic archaea in a type of symbiotic relationship known as syntrophy. In this mutualistic relationship, methanogens siphon off and utilize fungal waste products (hydrogen and carbon dioxide), thereby speeding fungal metabolism and enabling faster and more complete deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass. Despite their importance to biomass breakdown, very little is known about the genomic basis of fungal/methanogen mutualism, including how these microbes are matched in nature, as well as the diversity and robustness of such pairings. The goal of this project is to develop the knowledge necessary to use understudied anaerobes to enhance lignocellulosic biofuel production. There may be unique biomass degrading mechanisms that are not present in other genera of anaerobic gut fungi.
Proposer’s Name: Michelle O’Malley, UC Santa Barbara