Heterobasidion annosum s.l. is a common fungal pathogen in conifer plantations and in natural forests. Economically, annosum root rot is the most devastating disease of conifers in the northern hemisphere. Modern forest management and establishment of large-scale monocultures have contributed to an increase in disease incidence, and there is a need for new control strategies. Genetic control with durable, resistant tree material is the choice for sustainable forestry; however, genetic control requires in-depth knowledge of the infection process and detailed information about the molecular mechanisms involved. H. annosum s.l. is a necrotrophic tree pathogen (i.e., it grows in dead tree tissues) that produces a range of extracellular enzymes and a multitude of toxins. The virulence of this pathogen has been shown to be partly under mitochondrial control.
There are several very good reasons for sequencing the Heterobasidion genome. Comprehensive genome information will open up interesting functional and evolutionary comparisons with other organisms. It will also make genetic information from Heterobasidion more accessible, allowing for direct structural and regulatory gene findings in silica. The complete sequence of Heterobasidion will make it the first plant pathogenic homobasidiomycete with comprehensive genome coverage; this would strengthen investigations in many areas, including pathogenicity factors, interactions with host organisms, lignin degradation and bioremediation applications, and fungal biology and evolution.
Principal Investigators: Jan Stenlid (Swedish Univ. of Agricultural Sciences), Francis Martin (INRA, France), Halvor Solheim (Norwegian Forest Res. Inst.), Ursula Kües (Georg-August Univ. of Göttingen), James B. Anderson (Univ. of Toronto), and Matteo Garbelotto (Univ. of California, Berkeley).