“Dark matter fungi” describes the large portion of uncultured and unstudied fungal diversity that is ubiquitous and abundant in the environment but absent in taxonomic classifications of the kingdom and sequence databases. Many of these fungi belong to the early diverging branches on the fungal tree of life, and include zoosporic fungi (possessing flagella) that thrive in aquatic ecosystems and whose phylogenetic and species diversity rivals that of the remaining fungal kingdom. In what may be the first major single cell fungal genome sequencing initiative, researchers hope to sequence and analyze the genomes of 50 species of unculturable zoosporic fungi to learn about their ecology. The genomic data will be used to identify novel enzymes and pathways and reconstruct the ecological function of the organisms that produce them in a phylogenetic context. The broader impacts include genomic blueprints of the major organisms responsible for algal biofuel diseases, catalogs of enzymes of potential biotechnological application, and reference genomes for ecological metagenomics.
Proposer’s Name: Timothy James, University of Michigan