Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Genome sequencing of fungus with biotechnological applications

Researchers Antonio G. Pisabarro (Professor of Microbiology) as well as José Luis Lavín and José Antonio Oguiza, from the Genetic and Microbiology Group at the Public University of Navarre, have taken part in the international project for the sequencing of the genome of the Postia placenta fungus.

The results, published recently in the American National Academy of Sciences’ scientific journal (PNAS), has enabled the determination of the mechanisms with which this fungus attacks wood in order to use the cellulose contained within. These results are important for designing processes using wood to produce bioethanol.

For the production of biofuel cereals, beet and other crops (first-generation fuels) have been used as raw material. Nevertheless, the controversies generated by this derived use of food products have made it necessary to look for new raw materials which are not foods and do not affect their price on the market In this sense, food and vegetable waste are a promising alternative (second-generation fuels). Access to the sugar that forms cellulose (the real starting point for the production of alcohol) is difficult in this type of waste. In this context, the results of the study of the P. placenta genome are one more step in the quest for more efficient and less contaminant processes for the production of alcohol from wood.

The project for sequencing and identification of the genes of this fungus, coordinated by Dan Cullen of the University of Wisconsin (USA), has taken two years to complete and 53 researchers from eight countries participated in it. If we were to transcribe in letters the almost 17,000 genes making up the P. placenta genome, we would occupy 7,000 pages with 33 million letters. As Gerardo Pisabarro, the person responsible for the team of researchers at the Public University of Navarre, explained: «the problem is not so much obtaining these seven thousand pages, because there are tools that enable us to do this; but it is reading them, deciphering what they are saying, identifying the genes and finding out how they work».

Fungi with white rot, fungi with brown rot
Trees are rich in cellulose and the sugar that forms part of the tree is mainly found in this polymer. However, unlike what happens with grapes — the sugar of which is easily useable with yeast to produce alcohol —, obtaining glucose (and alcohol) from a tree is not so easy.

«There are two ways to degrade wood, pointed out Mr Pisabarro: there are timbers which, on rotting, go white – as a result of fungi; there are others which go brown, and this is produced by another type of fungus, such as P. placenta». The novelty with this fungus is how it intervenes in the degradation of the wood, its capacity to eat the cellulose without damaging lignin, the substance protecting the tree’s cellulose. When we observe a tree, despite the fact that the cellulose making it up is mostly white, what we see is not white but brown. This is due to the layer of lignin protecting it and which gives it its woody appearance.

«This substance, lignin, protects the cellulose of the tree from attack by other organisms and the tree loses consistence, it rots and is broken down by other organisms; but it also makes it more difficult for us to obtain the sugar to produce alcohol. So, what we have to do is to break up the lignin layer. The fungi which eat (degrade or break up) the lignin leave the cellulose open to view and the tree rots with a coating of white rot. Fungi like P. placenta, nevertheless, are capable of eating the cellulose without damaging the lignin and, in fact, the trees affected by this fungus, on rotting, end up with a brownish colour. Our goal is to find out the modus operandi of these fungi – how they manage to get the cellulose and, in this way, recover the greatest quantity of glucose from the wood in order to use it to produce alcohol».

Apart from the applied research, Professor Gerardo Pisabarro underlines the importance of basic research in genomics and in micro-organisms, given that «essentially all living things are organised in a similar manner. There are aspects of gene regulation that we can study in simples systems such as fungi, and obtain answers applicable to ourselves. We are also witnessing a veritable technological revolution in the sequencing of genomes that will probably enable us to know the sequence of individuals at an acceptable cost to health systems. This will mean a revolution in medicine, both diagnostically and as regards treatment of many illnesses in a more personalised manner».

Irati Kortabitarte | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>