Comparative analysis of Aspergillus species provides genus-wide view of fungal diversity
In the world of fungi, Aspergillus is an industrial superstar. Aspergillus niger, for example, has been used for decades to produce citric acid--a compound frequently added to foods and pharmaceuticals --through fermentation at an industrial scale.
Other species in this genus play critical roles in biofuel production, and plant and human health. Since the majority of its 350 species have yet to be sequenced and analyzed, researchers are still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding Aspergillus' full potential and the spectrum of useful compounds they may generate.
In a study published February 14, 2017 in the journal Genome Biology, an international team including researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, report sequencing the genomes of 10 novel Aspergillus species, more than doubling the number of Aspergillus species sequenced to date.
The newly sequenced genomes were compared with the eight other sequenced Aspergillus species. With this first ever genus-wide view, the international consortium found that Aspergillus has a greater genomic and functional diversity than previously understood, broadening the range of potential applications for the fungi considered one of the most important workhorses in the biotechnology.
"Several Aspergillus species have already established status as cell factories for enzymes and metabolites. However, little is known about the diversity in the species at the genomic level and this paper demonstrates how diverse the species of this genus are," said study lead author Ronald de Vries of the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute in the Netherlands. "One can't assume that an Aspergillus species will have the same physiology as a better studied species of the genus."
The study, conducted through the DOE JGI's Community Science Program, also demonstrates the importance of evaluating biodiversity within a genus to understand how fungi can be greater utilized to solve a variety of problems.
Sequencing a diverse set of Aspergillus genomes allows researchers to build a more comprehensive catalog of enzymes for biotechnological applications, added DOE JGI Fungal Genomics Program Head Igor Grigoriev, senior author of the paper. Those applications include harnessing Aspergillus to help protect crops and ward off agents that can cause diseases in plants.
Comparing the newly sequenced genomes to those already available, researchers found a huge variety of carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) among the Aspergillus species, suggesting distinct strategies to break down plant biomass. CAZymes are responsible for breaking down plant cell walls, useful for industrially processing plants the DOE considers candidate bioenergy crops. The sugars that are part of these cell walls can't be accessed and fermented to make biofuels unless the walls are broken down by agents like CAZymes.
"Each of these 10 genomes encodes for a unique composition of CAZymes--and the wider assortment helps formulate enzyme cocktails better suited for different types of plant biomass to efficiently convert them into biofuels," Grigoriev said.
In addition to biofuels, CAZymes can also help facilitate the production of paper, textiles, food, feed and pharmaceuticals, according to de Vries.
The comparative analysis between the genomes also enabled researchers to uncover a high diversity of genes that: 1) allow the fungi to produce secondary metabolites, compounds that may be useful for applications such as crop protection; and 2) enable the fungi to tolerate stress. The knowledge gained in secondary metabolism and stress response will help to provide more insight in the mechanisms underlying these functions.
But despite the new insights gained, de Vries emphasizes that much still remains unknown about the full spectrum of what Aspergillus can do. "There is [still] much to learn and get from a better study [of Aspergillus]," he said. "The potential for applications within the genus has barely been touched." Grigoriev adds: "Encouraged by results of this study we now pursue a deeper exploration of the Aspergillus genus, sequencing the remaining 300 species, each carrying a unique composition genes, enzymes, and pathways"
All of the fungal genomes are available on the DOE JGI's Fungal Genomics portal MycoCosm. Letters of Intent are currently being accepted for the DOE JGI Community Science Program (CSP) and must be submitted online by March 31, 2017. The CSP Annual Call is focused on large-scale sequence-based genomic science projects that address questions of relevance to DOE missions in energy security and sustainability and global biogeochemistry. Click here for more information regarding the CSP call.
The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is committed to advancing genomics in support of DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and cleanup. DOE JGI, headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif., provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. Follow @doe_jgi on Twitter.
DOE's Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.
Massie Ballon | EurekAlert!
Small but versatile; key players in the marine nitrogen cycle can utilize cyanate and urea
10.12.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie
Carnegie Mellon researchers probe hydrogen bonds using new technique
10.12.2018 | Carnegie Mellon University
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.
The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Life Sciences
10.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
10.12.2018 | Life Sciences