Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sex life of killer fungus finally revealed

01.12.2008
Biologists at The University of Nottingham and University College Dublin have announced a major breakthrough in our understanding of the sex life of a microscopic fungus which is a major cause of death in immune deficient patients and also a cause of severe asthma.

The discovery of a sexual cycle in the fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus is highly significant in understanding the biology and evolution of the species and will shed new light on its ability to adapt to new environments and its resistance to antifungal drugs. It is hoped the results of this research will lead to new ways of controlling this deadly disease and improved treatments for patients infected with it.

First described 145 years ago this killer fungus, until now, had no known sexual cycle and was only thought to reproduce by production of asexual spores. But researchers from the School of Biology at The University of Nottingham and from University College Dublin, have finally been able to induce sexual reproduction in this potentially lethal pathogen showing, for the first time, that A. fumigatus possesses a fully functional sexual reproductive cycle.

Dr Paul Dyer is an expert in the sexual development and population variation of fungi and co-author of ‘Discovery of a sexual cycle in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus’, which will be published in Nature on 30 November 2008.

Dr Dyer said: “This discovery is significant for providing both good and bad news. The bad news is that we now know that Aspergillus fumigatus can reproduce sexually, meaning that it is more likely to become resistant to antifungal drugs in a shorter period, and the sexual spores are better at surviving harsh environmental conditions. The good news is that we can use the newly discovered sexual cycle as a valuable tool in laboratory experiments to try to work out how the fungus causes disease and triggers asthmatic reactions. Once we understand the genetic basis of disease we can then look forward to devising methods to control and overcome the fungus”.

The spores of A. fumigatus, which feeds on dead or decaying organic matter, are widespread in the atmosphere. It has been estimated that everybody inhales around 200 spores each day. These spores are normally eliminated by the innate immune response. However, this fungus has become the most prevalent airborne fungal pathogen due to its ability to cause infections in hosts with a weakened immune system, with at least a 50 per cent mortality rate in humans. Four per cent of patients in modern European teaching hospitals have invasive aspergillosis; it is the leading infectious cause of death in leukaemia and bone marrow transplant patients. The fungus is also associated with severe asthma and sinusitis.

Almost one-fifth of all fungi have no known sexual stage — these include many Aspergillus, Penicillium, Coccidioides and Malassezia species which are of major economic and medical importance. However, some of these species have apparently functional sex related genes and this research could lead to a sexual revolution for many other of these supposed ‘asexuals’.

The research was carried out in collaboration with Dr Hubert Fuller and his final year PhD student Céline O’Gorman from the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science at University College Dublin. The study was funded by an IRCSET Postgraduate Research Scholarship, an EC Marie Curie Training Fellowship and a grant from the British Mycological Society, which facilitated research visits by Céline O’Gorman to The University of Nottingham.

Many fungi reproduce by sexual means. The molecular-genetic and physiological mechanisms controlling sex in fungi are being investigated at The University of Nottingham with the aim of devising new methods for the control of fungal diseases and promoting sex in beneficial species. The consequences of sex for genetic variation and evolution are being studied in model species of fungi including plant pathogens and Antarctic lichen-forming fungi.

Lindsay Brooke | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Designed proteins to treat muscular dystrophy
29.06.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Funding of Collaborative Research Center developing nanomaterials for cancer immunotherapy extended
28.06.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making Waves

Computer scientists use wave packet theory to develop realistic, detailed water wave simulations in real time. Their results will be presented at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference.

Think about the last time you were at a lake, river, or the ocean. Remember the ripples of the water, the waves crashing against the rocks, the wake following...

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cystic fibrosis alters the structure of mucus in airways

29.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

New Headlamp Dimension: Fully Adaptive Light Distribution in Real Time

29.06.2017 | Automotive Engineering

Turning the Climate Tide by 2020

29.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>