Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Wood's 'noble rot' fungus genetically decoded

20.07.2010
Nature Biotechnology publishes the complete genome of Empa's 'violin fungus'

An international team including Empa researcher Francis Schwarze has sequenced the genome of the common split gill mushroom, Schizophyllum commune, a widely distributed fungus which grows on and decomposes wood.

The genome, containing some 13,000 genes, has recently been published in Nature Biotechnology. The new data allows scientists a view of the mushroom's unique enzyme-based digestive apparatus which gives it the ability to attack and degrade wood, causing white rot. It is this ability which Schwarze, together with other colleagues, has exploited to improve the tonal qualities of wood used to make violins.

Fungi are the ideal recycling machines – they decompose dead organic material and convert it into nutritious humus, and together with bacteria they are nature's most important detritivores. During the course of their evolution they have developed special digestive enzymes with which they are able to decompose lignin and other complex substances in woody plants, an ability which is almost unique in nature. However, many species of fungi also attack living wood, thereby causing significant economic damage to wood related industries.

That fungi not only cause damage through their ability to decompose certain constituent materials of wood but can actually improve specific properties of wood has already been shown by Empa's Francis Schwarze. In his «Stradivarius Project» he has used wood-attacking fungi such as the (now genetically decoded) S. commune to improve the tonal qualities of spruce or maple used to make violins. In 2006 Schwarze submitted a patent application covering this process, and last September a biotech violin made with wood treated with fungi was judged superior to a genuine Stradivarius in a blind test.

A real expert at recycling carbohydrates

Schwarze has high hopes for the now completely deciphered genome of "his" fungus. "The genome sequence provides us with essential information on the lignolytic – that is, wood decomposing – enzymes. This knowledge will allow us to genetically modify the wild strain in order to optimize and control very specific decomposition processes." The S. commune genome ought to be a rich source of information, since according to genetic analysis the split gill mushroom possesses the most comprehensive enzyme-based digestive apparatus of all standing fungi (Basidiomycota). The enzymes are used to digest polysaccharides (carbohydrates and long-chain sugars) and to decompose lignin in wood, an ability which is unique, as far as is currently known. According to Schwarze this wide range of enzymatic activity explains why S. commune is so widespread; the fungus can nourish itself on practically anything!

This relatively new field, which Schwarze calls «Fungal Biotechnology», provides a means of improving the process of impregnating spruce and pine wood – neither of which are particularly long-lasting or hard-wearing – with protective and finishing agents. Schwarze is convinced that "…this represents an enormous commercial potential, above all in Switzerland, where more than 60% of the forests are spruce and pine." Another possible application is improving the efficiency of methods for the production of biogenic fuels based on woody biomass.

In addition, the genetic sequence is expected to supply important information on the development of the fruiting body of the fungus and how this process can be optimized, for example in the cultivation of edible mushrooms. Considering that some 2.5 million tonnes of edible fungi are produced every year, this could well prove to be very profitable know-how.

Literature reference

«Genome Sequence of the model mushroom Schizophyllum commune», Robin A. Ohm et al., Nature Biotechnology, published online on 11th July 2010 (DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1643); Abstract at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nbt.1643.html

Dr. Francis W.M.R. Schwarze | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.empa.ch
http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nbt.1643.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees
20.07.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht The Kitchen Sponge – Breeding Ground for Germs
20.07.2017 | Hochschule Furtwangen

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>