"What's particularly interesting is that species retained their flagella for different lengths of time and developed different mechanisms of spore dispersal," said David McLaughlin, professor of plant biology at the University of Minnesota in the College of Biological Sciences and co-author of a paper published in the Oct. 19 issue of Nature describing how fungi adapted to life on land.
The discovery is the latest installment in an international effort to learn the origins of species. McLaughlin is one of five principal investigators leading a team of 70 researchers at 35 institutions. The group analyzed information from six key genetic regions in almost 200 contemporary species to reconstruct the earliest days of fungi and their various relations.
McLaughlin is directing the assembly of a shared database of fungal structures obtained through electron microscopy, which produces detailed images that provide clues to the diversity of these organisms. The work is funded by a $2.65 million "Assembling the Tree of Life" grant from the National Science Foundation that was awarded to Duke University, the University of Minnesota, Oregon State University and Clark University in January 2003.
The discovery provides a new glimpse into evolution of life on Earth. It will also help scientists better understand this unusual group of organisms and learn how to develop uses for their unique properties in medicine, agriculture, conservation and industry.
McLaughlin believes fungi are a valuable untapped natural resource. They play a variety of roles in nature, such as supplying plants with nutrients through mutualistic relationships and recycling dead organisms. He estimates that there are about 1.5 million species on the Earth, but only about 10 percent of those are known. And civilization has only identified uses for a few of those, such as using yeast to make bread, beer, wine, cheese and a few antibiotics.
"Understanding the relationships among fungi has many potential benefits for humans," McLaughlin said. "It provides tools to identify unknown species that may lead to new products for medicine and industry. It also helps us to manage natural areas, such as Minnesota's oak savannahs, where the fungi play important roles but are often hidden from view."
Fungi are also intriguing because their cells are surprisingly similar to human cells, McLaughlin said. In 1998 scientists discovered that fungi split from animals about 1.538 billion years ago, whereas plants split from animals about 1.547 billion years ago. This means fungi split from animals 9 million years after plants did, in which case fungi are actually more closely related to animals than to plants. The fact that fungi had motile cells propelled by flagella that are more like those in animals than those in plants, supports that.
Not all fungi are beneficial to humans. A small percent have been linked to human diseases, including life-threatening conditions. Treating these can be risky because human and fungal cells are similar. Any medicine that kills the fungus can also harm the patient. Thus knowing more about fungi helps identify new and better ways to treat serious fungal infections in humans. Fungi are also the major cause of disease in agricultural crops, so understanding them also helps track and control these plant diseases.
McLaughlin and his colleagues will continue their efforts to establish genetic relationships among fungi and to understand their roles in nature. Additional structural studies, especially of key species, are needed to determine how the organisms adapted.
Mark Cassutt | EurekAlert!
The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona
Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research