Bioelectricity Using Button Mushrooms

A group at Stevens Institute of Technology are using Agaricus bisporus, cyanobacteria, and graphine nanoribbons to make a “bionic mushroom produce electricity,” according to Manu Mannoor, the assistant professor leading this project.  Though cyanobacteria can be used to produce electricity, their life on artificial surfaces is too short to be of much use in bioengineering. By using a growing these on the cap of a mushroom, the life of these cyanobacteria can be extended and may lead to further applications.

Integration of the mushroom, cyanobacteria, and graphene is done by using a 3D printer to apply the nanoribbon and cyanobacteria layers upon the mushroom cap. The interwoven graphene nanoribbons are able to capture the photocurrent produced by the cyanobacteria and shunt it away for use. Through the integration of the three materials, the electricity-producing activities are increased by eight-fold over the casted cyanobacteria – pipette method being used as a baseline.

Hereis Agaricus bisporus equipped with black graphene nanoribbons that are used to collect electricity generated green cyanobacteria. (Source: Sudeep Joshi, Stevens Institute ofTechnology.)

Source 

Allen, J. (2018, Dec 4). Low Power-High Performance: Bio-hybrid Fungi. Retrieved Dec 9, 2018, from Semiconductor Engineering: https://semiengineering.com/power-performance-bits-dec-4/

Author: Bryan Rennick
Date Posted: 12-10-2018



Yeast-Associated Asthma

Asthma affects 339 million people globally and the rate of increase is about 50% each decade. A study on the relationship between the gut microbiome and risk for asthma was conducted in Ecuador. Researchers analyzed the gut of babies, looking for microbes that were associated with atopic wheeze at 5 years old, an early indicator of asthma in children.

A similar study in Canada looked only at bacteria, but the results from this study did not align, likely due to environmental and cultural differences. This study in Ecuador also looked at the fungal biome.

Unexpectedly, the researchers found that a single yeast was highly correlated with an increased risk of asthma: Pichia kudriavzevii, teleomorph of Candida krusei.

Using the 18S rRNA marker gene to profile microbiomes, the found that general fungal dysbiosis in babies was also correlated. In healthy children, filamentous fungi and yeasts comprise a much smaller proportion than in at-risk children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://sciencetrends.com/recent-study-shows-that-bacteria-and-fungi-in-the-gut-of-babies-are-linked-to-future-asthma-risk/

 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091674917316494

Author: Nikki Lukasko
Date Posted: 12-06-2018



Mycelium: Designing the way we explore Mars

Martian shoes made of mycelium???

According to an article produced by the BBC, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City wanted to find someone who could redesign, in a way, the moon boots from the 1970s’ moon explorations. Luckily enough, Liz Ciokajlo, was one such designer. She was super excited about this commission and envisioned a fluffy boot which utilized one of the strongest and most versatile materials on earth: fungal mycelium! She was set on using a material other than plastic and instead of moon travel this time, she chose Mars. These boots were designed with the idea that fungi are incredibly well-adapted at recycling nutrients and can very quickly regenerate. Ciokajlo then came up with the idea that this mycelia could potentially feed off of the nutrients contained in human sweat, and the research project was born. Although Ciokajlo’s first boots are made only from a composite mycelium-based material involving both cotton and hemp, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency) and ESA (European Space Agency) have since been working on utilizing these ideas and seeing whether they would actually hold up in a space mission. Research is also being conducted on whether buildings and actual structures could be made out of mycelial material to take up into space as well. These would be much lighter, as they would not have to be fully grown until arriving on Mars, then it would only take a matter of days or weeks in order for the fungus to grow into these structures. A lot of research is still yet to be done on this score, however it would seem that fungi may be shaping the way we live in the future much more than we all might have thought!

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20181031-how-fungus-and-sweat-could-transform-martian-exploration

Author: Sara Getson
Date Posted: 11-29-2018



Complete genomes from single-cells of unculturable fungi

In recent years, environmental DNA (eDNA) has allowed us to identify large numbers of unculturable fungi and exime their diversity using “barcodes.” However, except for knowing that these species are present and generally how their ITS sequence relates to other fungi, we know very little about these cryptic organisms. Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute have developed a pipeline that can generate genomes from single cells of uncultivated fungi.

This approach was applied to several early-diverging lineages including several mycoparasites. The single-cell approach yielded between 6 and 88% complete genomes for the eight species tested. However, combining single cells yielded co-assemblies that ranged for 73 to 99% complete.

This approach could help researchers study in more detail fungi that are known only from eDNA reads. With more complete genomes, we can learn much more about their metabolism and phylogenetic position than from possible ITS barcodes. The authors state that what they hope to see happen is that other researchers pick up this approach and tweak the pipeline to optimize it for different groups.

 

Story: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Expanding fungal diversity, one cell at a time: Pilot study demonstrates single cell genomics approach for fungal genomic diversity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 October 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181008114604.htm>.

Journal: Steven R. Ahrendt, C. Alisha Quandt, Doina Ciobanu, Alicia Clum, Asaf Salamov, Bill Andreopoulos, Jan-Fang Cheng, Tanja Woyke, Adrian Pelin, Bernard Henrissat, Nicole K. Reynolds, Gerald L. Benny, Matthew E. Smith, Timothy Y. James, Igor V. Grigoriev. Leveraging single-cell genomics to expand the fungal tree of life. Nature Microbiology, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41564-018-0261-0.

 

Author: Douglas Minier
Date Posted: 11-28-2018



Identification of two fungal pathogens causing white villous disease on medicinal mushrooms in China

The mushroom, Auricularia auricula-judae is considered as an edible mushroom and it ranks fourth in production in the world. This mushroom is also considered as a medicinal mushroom because it is effective against diabetes and certain cancers. In addition to that, this mushroom has antioxidant, anticholesterol, anticoagulant and immunoregulatory properties too. However, A. auricula-judae production is affected by number of diseases and white villous disease is one of them. The pathogen of white villous disease infects mushrooms from contaminated raw materials for mushroom cultivation such as potting mix, polypropylene bags and the infection occurs on the ventral side of mushroom by forming white villi (Figure 1). But few studies reported on white villous disease. Therefore, the research group from Institute of Microbiology, Heilongjiang of Science in China worked on this disease to identify new fungal species associated with white villous disease in Auricularia auricula-judae.

They have collected 30 samples of A. auricula-judae which were already infected with white villous disease and isolation of fungal isolates were done by single spore method. Pure fungal cultures were identified by morphologically and molecularly based on mycelial growth rate, colony formation, conidial morphology, conidiogenous cells, chlamydospores and ITS sequence comparisons. They could isolate two new fungal pathogens, Fusarium equiseti and Fusarium sporotrichioides associate with white villous disease on A. auricula-judae and this is the first study of identifying F. equiseti and F. sporotrichioides as pathogens of white villous disease on A. auricula-judae.

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Figure 1: Appearance of A. auricula-judae before and after infection. Healthy (A, C) and dried (E) fruiting bodies. Symptoms of white villous disease on fresh (B, D) and dried (F) fruiting bodies.

Reference:

  • Zhang, J. C., Kong, X. H., Zhang, P. Q., Liu, J. N., Ma, Y. P., Dai, X. D., … & Yu, L. P. (2017). Identification of a New Fungal Pathogen Causing White Villous Disease on the Fruiting Body of the Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom Auricularia auricula-judae (Agaricomycetes) in China. International journal of medicinal mushrooms19(2).
Author: Malini Jayawardana
Date Posted: 11-28-2018



El Portobello: The Mushroom Surfboard

Two surfers out of southern California have produced the first 100% biodegradable surfboard, named “El Portobello”. Similar to the industry lecture in class, SurfO founders David Purser and Daniel Del Toro filled a mold with mulch and inoculum in an attempt to form a surfboard. Ecovative, a company out of New York, provided the dehydrated mushroom materials. It took several years and apparently a few thousand dollars before they had a decent blank (without clover contamination). After drying and shaping by hand, the board is coated with a plant-based resin and hemp cloth. As of right now, there is only one and it is in a surfing culture museum. They are still working to acquire materials and space for producing marketable surfboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.visitcalifornia.com/dream365tv/guys-who-make-mushroom-surfboards

https://www.outsideonline.com/1991961/new-surf-company-making-boards-mushrooms

http://www.ecovativedesign.com/

Author: Nikki Lukasko
Date Posted: 11-27-2018



Fungi Recieved Crytsal forming Gene from Bacteria

Research published in April of 2018 showed that the ancestor of  a fungus, Phycomyces blakesleeanus,  received a crucial gene for sensing gravity from ancient bacteria (Fig 1). Researchers determined that this fungus contains a single protein called OCTIN which is responsible for producing the unique crystal matrix in Phycomyces blakesleeanus. Next, this protein was traced back to a single gene. Researchers then searched for organisms with similar genes or proteins, which led to the determination that the gene may have been required from bacteria. In fungi, OCTIN is only present in Mucoromycotina, suggesting that the gene was acquired after this lineage diverged, the gene is also present in some oomycetes.

In the fungus, the crystals are localized in large spore containing cells where the dense crystalline structure falls through the cytoplasm towards the bottom of the cell. The localization of the crystals towards the bottom of the cell signals that the fungus should keep growing upwards (Fig. 2). This is crucial for the fungus to be able to disperse its spores into the air instead of downwards allowing for effective dispersal.  Although it has been believed that fungi must have a way to sense gravity in order to form effective fruiting bodies for spore dispersal; this was the first example of how a fungus achieves this task. One interesting remaining question is in  regards to a role for the OCTIN protein in bacteria which has never been shown.

Fig 1: The fruiting bodies of Phycomyces blakesleeanus (1)

Fig 2: Crystalline structure purified from the fungus. Upper left panel shows the intact crystal structure(2).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

1) This Fungus Borrowed from Ancient Bacteria to Defy Gravity. JoAnna Klein. April, 27, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/27/science/fungus-gravity-bacteria.html

2) Evolutionary novelty in gravity sensing through horizontal gene transfer and high-order protein assembly. Nguyen TA, Greig J, Khan A, Goh C, Jedd G (2018) Evolutionary novelty in gravity sensing through horizontal gene transfer and high-order protein assembly. PLOS Biology 16(4): e2004920. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2004920

 

 

 

 

Author: Longley Reid
Date Posted: 11-18-2018



Possible Mycovirus Control of White Mold

Researchers have discovered a mycovirus, SsHADV-1, which can infect Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Fig 1).This white mold pathogen infects hundreds of plant species including economically relevant species such as soybean.  This research has recently come into greater focus with similar strategies being used to to control diseases such as chestnut blight. The research has begun to see success because of the discovery that viral particles can cause infection as free particles.  SsHADV-1 was chosen because of it’s aggressive infection rate of fungal hosts. Researchers performed assays to probe it’s effectiveness by directly inoculating the plant with the virus followed by inoculation with the white mold. The mold then became infected when it entered areas which had been swabbed with the virus.  The group also performed infection tests on plates which showed that the virus could contain the growth on the plate (fig 2).  They also found that only intact viral particles could be used to infect the fungi, viral DNA wasn’t effective.

Further work in this area will need to include research on how the virus actually infects fungi and how the virus is naturally spread (insect vectors etc.). One other question is whether the virus could harm beneficial fungi.  It seems likely that  this virus could infect other, potentially beneficial fungi because SsHADV-1 – like sequences have been found integrated into fungal genomes such as Tuber melanosporum and Laccaria bicolor. 

Figure 1: Sclerotinia sclerotiorum causing infection on a kidney bean plant

Fig 2: Plate assays showing mycovirus containment of the white mold on plate.

 

 

References:

Mole, Beth. “Sick Mold A virus that infects a crop-killing fungus, opening the possibility of its use as a fungicide.” The Scientist. https://www.the-scientist.com/the-literature/sick-mold-39395

Yu, Xiao et al. “Extracellular transmission of a DNA mycovirus and its use as a natural fungicide” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 110,4 (2013): 1452-7.

Author: Longley Reid
Date Posted: 11-18-2018



Upsettingly, Michigan does not have the largest Fungi on earth, humongous fungus

An article posted 11-15-2018 discusses a re-analysis of one of the largest organisms on earth.  Armillaria gallica, first studied by James B. Anderson in 1992, was re analyzed 26 years later ( which is not nearly 30 that’s 4 years off, closer to 25 years really) by Anderson to discover that instead of a 1,500 years old and 100,000Kg fungi that spans 37 acres this single individual is actually closer to 2,500 years old 400,000Kg, and spanning 173 acres in a forest in northern Michigan. Fungi, if you remember your intro mycology class and not your 4th grade science class because no one remembers 4th grade science, if they even learned about fungi in 4th grade, have to feed off of other organisms, living or dead, to get their sustenance. A. gallica is a facultative  plant parasitic fungi feeding on the roots of the forest trees and decaying plant tissue. In Anderson’s study he goes into much more detail about how he went about testing that this was a single individual, and all of the genetic testing. The news article doesn’t go into very much information on the methods. It does mention that there seem to be a low amount of mutations within this fungi and how if we can understand this we can potentially use it in cancer research, but the paper goes into much deeper detail about the mechanisms of this.

Finally the news article ends on a very sad note. Not only is this huge fungi not the largest  fungi in the world, the largest fungi in the world is still smaller than the dying clonal aspen forest in Utah. It’s dying because of humans,     of course.

 

Article: https://gizmodo.com/upsettingly-large-fungus-in-michigan-weighs-440-tons-an-1830446176

Paper: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/10/04/377234

Picture link: http://absolutemichigan.com/michigan/michigans-humongous-fungus/

Author: Anna Stouffer-Hopkins
Date Posted: 11-15-2018



Kim Jong-mushroom? Myco-steps toward diplomacy.

Photo:The Korean Herald

Back in September of this year the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gifted two tons of Tricholoma matsutake (aka matsutake in Japan or songyi in Korea), valued at $2.6 million, to the South Korean people for the Korean Thanksgiving. The recipients of the mushrooms were South Koreans separated from their families in North Korea during the Korean War. This act of good will followed a series of peace talks that resulted Panmunjon Declaration moving the two countries closer to reunification and denuclearization. The gift was initially well received by the South Koreans with President Moon Jae-in stating, “I hope these mushrooms, with the fragrance of the North preserved, can offer a little comfort. The day of embracing your family and seeing their faces will surely come. Please be healthy until that day.” However, the South Koreans delayed distributing the mushroom until they were tested for radiation levels. Radiation was detected (0.034 μsv) but it was well below the tolerance levels (1,000 μsv) set by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The mushrooms were released to their intended recipients this past Wednesday (11/7) bring the two countries one myco-step closer to peace.

https://www.newsweek.com/south-korea-giving-away-kim-jong-un-expensive-holiday-gift-1132169

https://www.newsweek.com/south-korea-safe-eat-kim-jong-un-gift-radiation-concern-1207769

 

Author: Doug Higgins
Date Posted: 11-14-2018



Black fungi help protect wood, but it’s useless to you.

Research conducted, by a (poor) PHD candidate, in Norway and in the Netherlands finds a fungus that can protect wood from rotting. This fungus seems to protect it from other fungi by its dense growth habit as well as protect it from the suns UV rays thanks to its dark pigmentation. The caveat is that it does not always have the dark pigmentation, and you apparently need to infuse any wood you want to protect with olive oil to get it to grow; on top of that it seems to take a long time to form the protective layer, months to years if the oil is just applied on the exterior. Based on the article the fungal layer may be a single fungus, Aureobasidium spp, or it maybe multiple fungi. It was unclear which was the case.

Olive oil and fungus protect wood from wood rot

Three different types of wood were infused with three different types of oil in two different countries to look for the best combinations for fungal growth. ( I would hate to do the statistics on this.)

 

Article: https://innovationorigins.com/black-fungi-protect-wood-from-wood-rot/

Picture location: https://phys.org/news/2018-11-olive-oil-fungus-wood.html

Author: Anna Stouffer-Hopkins
Date Posted: 11-12-2018



New Methods for Fighting White-Nose Syndrome in Bats

Photo: CREDIT RYAN VON LINDEN / NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

White-Nose Syndrome, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) is a devasting disease which has killed millions of hibernating bats in North America. National Geographic’s Jasson Bittel reported on new means by which researchers are attempting to remedy the disease. The first of these approaches involves polyethylene glycol (PEG), an osmotic stressor for the fungus. By rapidly drawing water out of the cells, PEG can prevent growth and reproduction of Pd. Another approach uses the fungus Muscodor crispins, isolated from a wild Bolivian pineapple. This genus is known for inhibition of other fungi and bacteria, including many pathogenic species. By fogging with the M. crispins (composition of the fog not stated), Pd appears to become less prevalent.

An immunological approach also appears promising. Bats lick their bodies whenever a substance is applied to them, and such substances could easily be transferred throughout a colony. This has inspired researchers to focus on the development of lickable vaccines, capable of easily application and colony immunization. A previously profiled approach to fighting Pd is based on exposure to ultraviolet light. Pd has evolved exclusively in dark caves for long enough that it has lost a critical mechanism of DNA repair, causing its extreme sensitivity to UV light. By treating the bats with short doses of UV, the fungus could be seriously hampered. The final tool this article considers is the use of chitosan, a polysaccharide derived from the alkaline treatment of chitin. This compound is fungicidal, and therefore may help prevent infection by Pd.

Author: Julian Liber
Date Posted: 11-10-2018



Mushroom-Algae Solar Cells

In the field, it is not unusual to encounter fungi with a diverse microbiota on their caps, which sometime includes the green stains of algae. EurekAlert reported this week on an article published in Nano Letters. The authors used white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) as a cyanobacteria-friendly substrate for bioelectricity generation. The cyanobacteria had previously been evaluated for electricity generation, but one major limitation the researchers encountered concerned the ability for the cyanobacteria to live on the substrates necessary for electricity conduction. The researchers turned to biological substrates with the hypothesis that the surface of a button mushroom would be more favorable to cyanobacterial persistence. The mushroom-algae biogenerator/solar cell consisted of a spiral of algae on the cap (pileus) of the mushroom, overlaid with a graphene nanoribbon net to capture produced electricity. Both were applied using a 3D printer.

There were two important points demonstrated by this paper: 1) Cyanobacteria persist at significantly higher density on the live mushroom compared to a vinegar killed or silicone analogs, and 2) electricity can be captured and measured using this application method. While the amount of energy generated is tiny, this study provides a basis for the use of biological substrates for bioreactors. Using hyphal mats instead of fruiting bodies may be an interesting substrate to test for this application.

Figure 1. Mushroom which has been printed with cyanobacteria (green-brown spiral) and graphene nanoribbons (blck net).

Author: Julian Liber
Date Posted: 11-10-2018



Follow your nose to where the diseases grow!

There is a new weapon in the fight against the fungal disease killing native trees in Hawaiʻi.  Belgian Malinois a breed of dog are now being trained as a detector of Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death.Hawaiian Officials say preliminary trials show great potential for using dogs for early identification of trees impacted by Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, also known as ROD. Over the last few years, the fungal disease – of which there are two strains, Ceratocystis huliohia and the more aggressive Ceratocystis lukuohia – has impacted hundreds of thousands of acres of native ‘ōhi‘a forests on Hawai‘i Island.

The dogs are able to detect the Volatile Organic Compounds released by the disease before the visual symptoms are revealed  if the trees are or have had ROD in them but they’re not showing symptoms yet, researchers are hoping to be able to apply some kind of pesticide to be able to help save those trees.

http://www.bigislandvideonews.com/2018/11/04/video-fungus-sniffing-dog-to-help-save-hawaii-ohia-trees/

 

Author: Drew Glassbrook
Date Posted: 11-06-2018



Medicinal Caterpillar Fungus Endangered

The caterpillar fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, is a close relative of more well known “zombie-ant” fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Similar to it’s cousin, the “zombie-ant” fungus, O. sinesis does infect insects – the larval stage of the ghost moth, Hepialus humuli. However, instead of producing compounds to infect and modify insect brains, the caterpillar fungus is known to produce compounds with medicinal, aphrodisiac, and athletic enhancing properties in humans. These enhancing effects have never been classically tested in clinical trials, but many people throughout the region swear by its immune-building benefits. Because of these touted benefits, the caterpillar fungus has been called the most valuable parasite in the world, being used in self-medication, sports doping, and bribes, and is worth three times its weight in gold in Beijing (Yong, 2018). It gained popularity in the news as the “Himalayan Viagra” (Kotamraju, 2016), and is indeed limited in its global distribution and can only be found in the Himalaya plateaus.

Ghost moth larvae (orange, bottom) parasitized by the caterpillar fungus, with developing fruiting bodies (brown, top). Described as “cheetos on a stick”. Image from K. Hopping.

Unfortunately, a trifecta of problems is causing the valuable fungus to disappear; a limited distribution, over-harvesting, and a warming climate (Hopping et al. 2018). Both the caterpillar fungus and the ghost moth are adapted to cold, dry conditions at high elevations, and global climate trends are making these types of regions to increase in temperature and humidity, making it difficult for the fungus and moth to survive. Some countries in the region are beginning to place harvest limits on the caterpillar fungi, but they are so valuable that many natives to the region rely on it for their primary source of income, making it difficult to stop over-harvesting.

References:

Yong, E. The Worlds Most Valuable Parasite is in Trouble. The Atlantic. 2018. (https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/10/tibetan-caterpillar-fungus-trouble/573607/)

Kotamraju, G. Yartsa gunbu (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) – Entomopathogen nicknamed Himalayan Viagra. Bonito Lab – Fungi in the News. 2016. (https://bonito.psm.msu.edu/2016/11/yartsa-gunbu-ophiocordyceps-sinensis-entomopathogen-nicknamed-himalayan-viagra/)

Hopping, K. A. et al. The demise of caterpillar fungus in the Himalayan region due to climate change and overharvesting. PNAS. 2018. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1811591115

Author: Mitch Roth
Date Posted: 10-30-2018



Frog communities coexist with deadly chytrid fungus and are recovering

In 2004 a deadly chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, killed frogs in Panama by the thousands. This chytrid decimated the population of frogs within the span of a couple months, with half of the frogs species native to the area going extinct. however, this isn’t where the story ends. Within a decade the remaining frogs were able to coexist with the fungus with infected frogs having the same mortality rate as those that were not infected. This coexistence may be due in part to the change in the species found within the community. Species primarily responsible for transporting the disease are now gone and the entire ecosystem has now changed, favoring more resilient species. The community of remaining frogs in Panama have now stabilized and the ecosystem is in recovery. The researchers are hopeful that other frog communities afflicted with this chytrid fungus will respond similarly, leading to stable populations of these amphibians.

 

Link to article:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181003102730.htm

Journal Citation:

Graziella DiRenzo, Elise Zipkin, Evan Campbell Grant, J. Andrew Royle, Ana Longo, Kelly Zamudio and Karen Lips. Eco-Evolutionary Rescue Promotes Host-pathogen CoexistenceEcological Applications, 2018 DOI: 10.1002/eap.1792

Author: Austin Mccoy
Date Posted: 10-30-2018



First Genetic Profile of an Aspergillus Section

A team of scientists out of the Technical University of Denmark presented the first sequence analysis of a fungal subgroup of Aspergillus. This genus plays a key role in agriculture, fermentation, biotechnology, and health, serving as the “Swiss Army knife of fungal genera,” said co-author Scott Baker.

Researchers looked at 23 genomes of section Nigri species, including A. heteromorphus, A. aculeatinus, A. iberucus, and multiple A. niger isolates. Thousands of new genes were classified, paying special interest to those involved in secondary metabolism, as they are significant in Aspergillus species delineation. By comparing across section Nigri, a genetic profile can be built and connected to known phenotypic characteristics of the group. In this future, this knowledge can be applied to industries that Aspergillus species play a role in. For example, author Mikael Andersen from the Technical University of Denmark claims that there is a possibility of identifying “new unique enzymes or to link an interesting bioactive compound to the biosynthetic genes.” Section Nigri was chosen because the group encompasses many species with industrial applications, with several acting as production organisms for enzymes.

This is the start of a long-term project comparing the genomes of more than 300 Aspergillus fungi. One of their main goals is to catalog carbohydrate active enzymes (CAzymes) that could aid in the production of sustainable fuel.

 

 

References

 

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Genetic profile for a section of Aspergillus fungi: Researchers build a genetic profile for a section of Aspergillus fungi.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2018.

 

Tammi C. Vesth, Jane L. Nybo, Sebastian Theobald, Jens C. Frisvad, Thomas O. Larsen, Kristian F. Nielsen, Jakob B. Hoof, Julian Brandl, Asaf Salamov, Robert Riley, John M. Gladden, Pallavi Phatale, Morten T. Nielsen, Ellen K. Lyhne, Martin E. Kogle, Kimchi Strasser, Erin McDonnell, Kerrie Barry, Alicia Clum, Cindy Chen, Kurt LaButti, Sajeet Haridas, Matt Nolan, Laura Sandor, Alan Kuo, Anna Lipzen, Matthieu Hainaut, Elodie Drula, Adrian Tsang, Jon K. Magnuson, Bernard Henrissat, Ad Wiebenga, Blake A. Simmons, Miia R. Mäkelä, Ronald P. de Vries, Igor V. Grigoriev, Uffe H. Mortensen, Scott E. Baker, Mikael R. Andersen. Investigation of inter- and intraspecies variation through genome sequencing of Aspergillus section Nigri. Nature Genetics, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0246-1

Author: Nikki Lukasko
Date Posted: 10-29-2018



Astonishing plastic degrading fungus is discovered amidst garbage dump!

Researcher, To Sehroon Khan, and his team from China went sampling in Pakistan in 2017. Instead of going to some untouched natural area, they went…(yes, that’s right!) to explore garbage dumps! After collecting samples there, researchers took specimens back to China where they discovered a entirely new strain of Aspergillus tubingensis. Not only did they find this new strain, but also concluded that it can actually degrade polyurethane, which the article explains is used in many items from refrigerators to imitation leather. Currently, only a small fraction of plastics are recycled and thus, further developing this approach of biodegradation using this organism could greatly accelerate the process of plastic decomposition. Currently, the article asserts, plastics are used much of the time because they do not degrade, however that this is also a large part of the problem involving the environment and pollution in various ecosystems. Following some limited testing, To Sehroon Khan’s team determined that this fungus actually has the capability to degrade polyurethane in a matter of weeks instead of years or decades. Although a method for working with this fungus will take a significant period of time to properly develop, these new findings could vastly change the way we look at decomposition and recycling in the future.

https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/fungus-eats-polyurethane-Aspergillus-tubingensis-plastic

http://english.cas.cn/newsroom/research_news/201703/t20170330_175543.shtml

Author: Sara Getson
Date Posted: 10-24-2018



Mushrooms as vitamins

Vitamin D is an important nutrient to humans, where deficiencies result in diseases like rickets and other bone deficiencies. Most humans get their vitamin D from a natural internal process triggered by sunlight, but for those of us in the north, that’s often difficult in the winter. To help us get through winter, many people take vitamin D supplements, or eat more fortified food (often breakfast cereals and some milk). These sources of vitamin D come from animals like fish, which leads to concern for vegetarians and people with allergies.

A recently published article in the Saudi Journal of Biological Science showed through High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) analysis that oyster mushrooms produce vitamin D in quantities that can be used by humans to fortify bones. Additionally, like in humans, oyster mushrooms increase their production of vitamin D when exposed to real or artificial sunlight. This method may be a new way to increase vitamin D consumption in people with concerns for the traditional sources of the vitamin, along with finding a new, cost-effective way to produce vitamin D.

 

https://www.media.uzh.ch/en/Press-Releases/2018/Space-Farming.html

 

Author: Rebecca Shay
Date Posted: 10-24-2018



Ground control to major Tom, put your strigolactone on

Major Tom

Photo: www.reddit.com

Soil for space-crops, obtained from the moon or nearby planets, will reduce the cost of transporting bulk growing material from earth to the international space station. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal symbionts might improve crop production in nutrient-poor extraterrestrial substrates. However, initiation of the plant-fungi symbiosis, via strigolactone (SL) signaling, is positively regulated by another signaling pathway (auxin) sensitive to the physical influence of microgravity. Mycorrhization of solanaceous plants were studied under stimulated microgravity (s0-g) produced by a 3-D random positioning machine. Under s0-g and low nutrients, P uptake and AM fungal (Rhizophagus irregularis) development were negatively impacted. However, in mutant plants with high SL production plant or when a SL adjuvant was added plants were still able to grow in s0-g, low nutrient conditions.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a23935573/fungi-plants-farming-in-space/

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41526-018-0054-z

 

Author: Doug Higgins
Date Posted: 10-21-2018



Honeybees gain viral protection from eating polypore extracts

Paul Stamets of Washington State University and colleagues tested whether diet supplementation of a sugar solution or extracts of the fungi Fomes fomentarius and Ganoderma resinaceum helped fend of viral infections such as honey bee deformed wing virus and Lake Sinai virus. In their field trials, colonies fed Ganoderma resinaceum extract exhibited a 79-fold reduction in Deformed wing Virus and a 45,000-fold reduction in Lake Sinai Virus compared to control colonies. These findings indicate honey bees may gain health benefits from fungi and their antimicrobial compounds and the researches suggested apiaries apply the extracts to

https://www.the-scientist.com/image-of-the-day/image-of-the-day–all-in-a-days-work-64908

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-32194-8

Author: Drew Glassbrook
Date Posted: 10-16-2018



Lager yeast getting a documentary

In the world of beer brewing, yeast is one of the most important ingredients, and greatly influences the taste. Ale yeasts are well documented, but for years people brewed lagers and hoped that they would end up as expected. Genetic analysis showed that an isolated lager yeast was a hybrid between an ale yeast and an unknown species. In 2010 during a survey of yeasts in Patagonia, the other parent to the lager yeast strain was found. Heineken has the rights to this yeast strain, and in 2017 released the first beer brewed with it. They recently released a documentary in partnership with National Geographic showing the process of how the yeast was discovered, and plan to help fund a yeast research lab with the scientist in Patagonia who found the wild strain.

 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/taranurin/2018/09/10/see-how-this-fungus-helped-scientists-make-beers-biggest-discovery-in-135-years/#7e94a13521d9

 

More reading:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/south-america/argentina/sponsor-content-wild-lager-story/

https://www.foodandwine.com/beer/patagonia-wild-yeast-beer

https://genome.cshlp.org/content/early/2008/09/11/gr.076075.108.full.pdf

Author: Rebecca Shay
Date Posted: 10-08-2018



Deadly behavior-modifying weapon identified in insect-world chemical arms race

Leafcutter ants belonging to the genera Atta and Acromyrmex are well-known for their specialized gardening skills. Endemic to South and Central America, leafcutter ants cultivate specialized fungi on mulch that they make from chewed leaves. Unfortunately, the leafcutter ant’s fungal gardens are susceptible to a specialized fungal parasite known as Escovopsis that has co-evolved to feed on the ant’s fungal crop. If the parasite overwhelms the gardens, the ant’s food supply can be decimated and the entire colony can collapse. However, the ants are excellent and diligent farmers. They meticulously patrol their gardens and remove any foreign fungi and contaminants. They even maintain biofilms of anti-biotic producing bacteria on their bodies that they use to kill off parasites.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UK) have identified two families of molecules that are produced by the Escovopsis fungi that are used to overcome the ant’s defense systems. One of the molecules was able to kill the anti-biotic producing bacteria that grew on the ant’s bodies. The second molecule worked to modify the ant’s behavior, much as the renowned ‘zombie-ant’ fungus. When the leafcutter ants were exposed to this ‘mind-control’ molecule, they would stop grooming their gardens and leave the nest and eventually die if sufficiently exposed.

There is also evidence that the ants may be fighting back by obtaining new strains of anti-biotic bacteria from the soil that can be more effective against Escovopsis. These findings are consistent with a biological arms race where each organism is trying to gain the upper hand. It also highlights the role that natural products can play in pathogen control and may help address issues of anti-biotic resistance in human medicine by providing novel sources of anti-biotics.

 

ScienceDaily article:

University of East Anglia. (2018, June 7). Deadly behavior-modifying weapon identified in insect-world chemical arms race. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180607082553.htm

Original article:

Heine, D. et al. (2018). Chemical warfare between leafcutter and symbionts and co-evolved pathogen. Nature Communications, 9: 2208. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04520-1

 

Author: Doug Minier

Author: Douglas Minier
Date Posted: 09-30-2018



Massasaugas snake skin microbiome is altered by fungal diseases

This study, from Illinois, focuses on the alteration of the Massasaugas snake skin microbiome by fungal diseases. Massasaugas are extremely susceptible to infection by Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola which will cause open sores and a high mortality rate within infected populations. Unfortunately, the mechanism by which this fungus causes disease is unknown. To better understand how this disease spreads and effects afflicted snakes, scientists have begun to characterize the skin microbiome of Eastern Massasaugas rattlesnakes. The scientists determined that Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola alters the skins bacterial and fungal microbiome not only at the site of the sore, but also the microbiome further from the symptomatic region.

 

Scientists hope that their findings will allow for better treatments in afflicted populations as well as discerning the mechanism for which snakes are infected.

 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180814153330.htm

Matthew C. Allender, Sarah Baker, Megan Britton, Angela D. Kent. Snake fungal disease alters skin bacterial and fungal diversity in an endangered rattlesnakeScientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-30709-x

Author: Austin Mccoy
Date Posted: 09-27-2018



Pollution is hitting the fungi that nourish European trees

 A ten-year European study  recently published in Nature led by Imperial College London and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, researchers showed that tree characteristics and local air and soil quality have a large impact on mycorrhizae. They examined 40,000 roots from 13,000 soil samples at 137 forest sites in 20 European countries. The team proposed that some community changes result in more ‘parasitic’ mycorrhizae: those that take carbon but give little back in the way of nutrients.

A major finding of the study is that European pollution limits may be set far too high. In the USA the limits are set much lower, and current European nitrogen limits may need to be cut by half. One of the more interesting conclusions was how new comparative genetic, physiological and ecological models of ectomycorrhizal community optimization versus parasitism under changing carbon and nitrogen conditions need to be developed to better understand the scope of the impact of anthropogenic nitrogen 

A report from science daily found at  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180606132709.htm

Primary Literature as source found at:

SN – 1476-4687
URL – https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0189-9
DO – 10.1038/s41586-018-0189-9
ID – van der Linde 2018

Author: Drew Glassbrook
Date Posted: 09-27-2018



Advancements made in desert truffle mycorrhization of Helianthemum

Shifting away from traditional spore driven inoculation of Helianthemum plants with Terfezia claveryi, the desert truffle, may become increasingly popular among the growers of this prized truffle as mycelial inoculation techniques improve. In a recently published article in the journal Mycorrhiza, “Mycelium of Terfezia claveryi as inoculum source to produce desert truffle mycorrhizal plants,” Arenas, et al. have shown that through alterations to the growth media, mycelial growth of this truffle can be optimized and adapted for in vitro mycorrhization. Demonstrating the ability to colonize the roots of Helianthemum, Arenas, et al. were able to achieve mycorrhization of over 50% on the roots used in their study after a mere two months of development while growing in vitro.

This paper lists contamination such as pathogens and non-target mycorrhizae as reasons to move away from spore-based inoculations. One of the main hurdles which have been largely overcome due to the work found in this paper, is the slow growth this fungi exhibits while maintained in vitro. By determining the limiting and non-limiting factors built into the growth media used in culturing this fungi, Arenas, et al. have been able to significantly improve the biomass produced by the strain of T. claveryi used in this study such that growth may prove to no longer be an issue.

Some further limitations the paper acknowledges are that is it currently not known if this truffle is heterothallic, and therefore identifying and pairing compatible mating types may be required. The work described within this paper can be used to inform similar work by those aiming to move away from spore-based inoculation of cultivated mychorhizal fungi.

 

Fig. 1 Ascocarp of Terfezia claveryi (a), isolated mycelium of T. claveryi in MMN medium (b), mycelium preculture in liquid medium (c), fermentation process in a 5-L stirred tank bioreactor (d), mycorrhizal H. almeriense plants with T. claveryi liquid mycelium 2 months after in vitro inoculation (e), mycorrhizal colonization and Hartig net in stained roots under microscope are marked with black arrows (f, g) (Arenas, et al., 2018)

Fig. 1 Ascocarp of Terfezia claveryi (a), isolated mycelium of T. claveryi in MMN medium (b), mycelium preculture in liquid medium (c), fermentation process in a 5-L stirred tank bioreactor (d), mycorrhizal H. almeriense plants with T. claveryi liquid mycelium 2 months after in vitro inoculation (e), mycorrhizal colonization and Hartig net in stained roots under microscope are marked with black arrows (f, g) (Arenas, et al., 2018)

 

 

Arenas, F., Navarro-Ródenas, A., Chávez, D., Gutiérrez, A., Pérez-Gilabert , M., & Morte, A. (2018). Mycelium of Terfezia claveryi as inoculum source to produce desert truffle mycorrhizal plants. Mycorrhiza.

Author: Bryan Rennick
Date Posted: 09-26-2018



Is eating mushrooms helpful for sugar metabolism?

DW News reported this week on a paper published in the Journal of Functional Foods by Tian et al. at Penn State University. The news article claims that eating 1 serving per day of white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) can help to regulate blood sugar by influencing the bacteria in your gut. The study they base this claim off is a mouse model study, in which there were 6 groups of mice: conventionally raised wildtype or gut-sensing knockout mice with a control or powdered mushroom supplement diet (equivalent to one serving per day to a human) and gnotobiotic (without a gut microbiota) mice with the same two diets.

The researchers investigated multiple characters of the mice following their diets. These including gut microbe diversity, histopathology, enzyme production, glucose tolerance, metabolite in tissues and fluids, and expression of important genes. Some of the results leading to these finding included increased levels of propionate and succinate in mushroom-fed vs. control mice, as well as reduce glucose and glycogen in the livers of mushroom-fed mice. There were significant changes in some of the glycolysis-related intermediates and enzymes. The bacteria Prevotella became substantially more abundant in the guts of the mushroom-fed mice. Bacteria of this genus are known to produce succinate in the gut.

While the researchers did find some significant differences between the mice of the different diets, it is an early conclusion to say that eating button mushrooms can help with diabetes, as opposed to say insulin. However, it is an interesting avenue to study how mushroom in the diet after the gut microbiome and what impacts this may have on human health.

model of the affect of eating mushrooms on mice

Figure 1. Whole organism effects of diet in conventional and gnotobiotic mice. Red terms are higher or upregulated while blue terms are lower or downregulated.

News source: https://www.dw.com/en/milk-and-mushrooms-may-prevent-metabolic-diseases/a-45632073

Paper source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464618301476

Tian Y, Nichols RG, Roy P, Gui W, Smith PB, Zhang J, Lin Y, Weaver V, Cai J, Patterson AD, Cantorna MT. Prebiotic effects of white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) feeding on succinate and intestinal gluconeogenesis in C57BL/6 mice. Journal of Functional Foods. 2018 Jun 30;45:223-32.

Author: Julian Liber
Date Posted: 09-26-2018



3rd Generation Sequencing Improves Fungal Barcoding

Improvements in DNA sequencing has impacted research in many ways. Known as “3rd generation” sequencing platforms, PacBio and Oxford Nanopore technologies allow sequencing of very long reads (>100kb) compared to classical Sanger Sequencing (<800bp). Common DNA regions that are sequenced for identifying fungi to a species level include the external transcribed spacer (ETS), small ribosomal subunit (SSU), internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1), 5.8S ribosomal RNA sequence (5.8S), internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2), large ribosomal subunit (LSU), and intergenic spacer (IGS). These sequences are very close together, and are often found clustered in tandem repeats in fungal genomes known as a ribosomal operon (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The ribosomal operon consisting of the ETS, SSU, ITS1, 5.8S, ITS2, LSU, and IGS regions typically sequenced individually as fungal barcodes, and associated primers used to amplify various regions via PCR.

A recent report in Molecular Ecology Resources by Wurzbacher et al. shows the power of 3rd generation sequencing technologies over Sanger Sequencing. By performing PCR and sequencing the entire ribosomal operon (~10kb) instead of sequencing each region individually through Sanger Sequencing, scientists can gain high quality data in a high throughput manner, providing clarity and resolution of fungal species relatedness. They test this new method on herbarium samples of Basidiomycetes, aquatic Chytridiomycetes, and cryptic single-celled fungi in the Nephridiophagidae family

The entire article can be found at:
  • https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2018/04/28/310540
  • https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1755-0998.12944
Author: Mitch Roth
Date Posted: 09-26-2018



Another reason why fungi rock!

 

garnet 2

Red garnet gemstone with frequent branching and anastomosis resembling fungal mycelium. Image: Ivarsson et al., 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

A network of tunnels forming unique patterns in red garnet gemstones may have been created by endolithic fungi. The New York Times reported on a recent PLOS One article proposing the hypothesis. Endoliths bore into rocks or minerals to use the substrate as a protective habitat, for trophic reason or both. Examining the physical markings left by an endoliths in fossils can provide clues to the type of organism that utilize the substrate and why organism may utilized a particular substrate. Alternatively, abiotic processes could also cause complex tunnels.

What makes the tunnels observed in red garnets so unique is that these gemstones are very hard and are found in a low-nutrient environment (river sediment). An abiotic force pushing into the garnet stone is unlikely since it would require the material exerting the pressure to be a least the strength of diamond. Chemical weathering is unlikely because it would produce flaking, shallow pit or erosion with a polygon appearance and not the intricate tunneling observed. When the pattern of the tunnels was analyzed under with various microscopy methods, including scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and synchrotron-radiation X-ray tomographic microscopy (SRXTM), frequent branching and anastomosis were observed similar to the mycelium pattern of fungi. Also, intact fatty acids were detected in the interior of the garnet. The researchers go on to suggest that garnets may provide a rare source of Fe2+ in a nutrient poor river sediment environment and a possible trophic reason for a fungus to utilize the gemstone as habitat. The evidence for what caused the tunnels is not definitive. Nonetheless the existing burrows could provide a habitat for potential endoliths.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/science/garnets-tunnels-microorganisms

Ivarsson, M., Skogby, H., Phichaikamjornwut, B., Bengtson, S., Siljeström, S., Ounchanum, P., … & Holmström, S. 2018. Intricate tunnels in garnets from soils and river sediments in Thailand–Possible endolithic microborings. PloS one, 13(8), e0200351. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0200351

 

Author: Doug Higgins
Date Posted: 09-21-2018



New fungus found on pistachio trees in Italy

Picture 1: Symptoms caused by Liberomyces pistaciae sp. nov. ( Vitale et al)

 

 

Published on EurekAlert! The global source for science news.

Word of the day: Gummosis- Disgusting sticky mess caused by sap flows that are usually do to pest or pathogen damage

 

In 2010 Pistachio growers in Italy were seeing canker formation, gummosis, decline and possible death of their trees. Originally this was blamed on many other pathogens Septoria pistaciae, Botryosphaeria dothidea and  Verticillium dahliae just to name a few, but after 8 years of what seemed to be painstaking research it was discovered that a new species Liberomyces pistaciae sp. nov was probably causing these issues.

EurekAlert did a good job summarizing the main ideas, although they used more jargon than an average person might follow easily. They went into the details of some of the sampling and the methods, and even talked about the directions that these researchers wanted to take this new information, and touched on avoidance strategies to prevent spreading this fungus. This page long article does not go in depth about any of the molecular work or their work on optimal temperature ranges, and the methods seem incomplete if you don’t get into the meat of the paper.

The article gets a 9/10 for putting the main point across in a mostly concise way without having to take out any of the  important details.

Effectively this is a disease note, but it just goes to show that there are still new discoveries, and that the worst thing you can do is become complacent and assume the symptoms of a problem can always be explained away with past explanations.

 

 

Fun Fact Sicily is the pistachio growing hub in Italy.

Extra resource: This article explains a bit about the different species in the Pistacia genus https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3876903/

News Article: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-09/pp-nff091818.php

Full paper:

Liberomyces pistaciae sp. nov., the causal agent of pistachio cankers and decline in Italy

https://mycokeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=28636

 

 

Author: Anna Stouffer-Hopkins
Date Posted: 09-19-2018



Shroom boom: Mushroom pickers find big ones in UP

Some huge mushrooms are popping up in the UP! The most notable finding at present was by a resident of Quinnesec in the upper peninsula who found a volleyball sized puffball mushroom in Dickson county. According to him, there are a number of fairly large mushrooms growing in the UP and although the spring apparently gets a lot of buzz, he says that the fall is very plentiful as well. In addition to puffballs, he also finds field mushrooms up north as well.

At the bottom of the article is also a cautionary statement by MSU experts, asserting that one must be absolutely sure of the identity of the mushrooms picked before consuming it.

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2018/09/13/giant-mushroom/37807505/

Author: Sara Getson
Date Posted: 09-19-2018



Fungi are important for regulating the climate

Above-ground fruiting bodies are plentiful this time of year, but the below-ground fungi are probably even more important. Fungal biomass in forests contribute to massive carbon sequestration. It has been estimated that there would be twice as much carbon in the atmosphere without the fungal cells. Deforestation is contributing to increased atmospheric CO2 by destroying sequestration in both plants and fungi.

http://www.wbur.org/news/2018/09/18/mushrooms-fungi-climate

 

Author: Rebecca Shay
Date Posted: 09-18-2018



Kew Gardens Releases Report on World Fungi

On September 12, 2018 the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens released their first ever report on the state of the world’s fungi.  This report included contributions from authors from around the world, and had sections detailing important advances in fungal genomics, the study of plant fungal interactions, as well as updates on the global conservation status of fungi.  The report contained exciting details about advances in mycology including details on the more than two thousand new species of fungi that were described in 2017.

The report also revealed advances in applied research such as showing fungal species which can be used to produce mycodiesel (figure one).  This advance and others detailed in the report continue to demonstrate the diverse potential of fungi as biofuels and other relevant products. The report also focused on the state of fungal research and production in China, with a large part dedicated to the production of edible fungi such as black morels (figure two). This business continues to expand in China becoming a significant economic resource in the country. In addition to edible mushrooms, China is a significant source of macrofungal diversity in general with new species being frequently described.

 

Figure 1: Daldinia eschscholzii is an endophyte that can breakdown lignocellulose to produce mycodiesel.

Figure 2: A plot of cultivated black morels (Morchella Sextalata) growing in China.

References:

 

Author: Longley Reid
Date Posted: 09-13-2018



How fungus could forever change the future of manufacturing

Using fungi as a material source is something that could be the solution for some of the problems we have to get rid of plastic. It takes a lot less resources and energy to produce a fungi based packaging than an oil-base plastic package. For example, simple packaging for glassware is supposed to be thrown away, and being able to simply toss it away in your yard, without creating more trash, and more work is something that we all should be looking for. That is what the co-founders of Ecovative Design, in Green Island, N.Y. have invested their money in. Because of fungi’s filamentous growth, they can be molded into soft packaging. Biological organisms are inherently cheaper and can decompose, which makes the final product cheaper and more environmentally friendly. 

“Altering the environmental conditions and substrates that microorganisms like mycelium grow in can result in products with various textures, colors, and structural properties”.

 

Sources: host.madison.com/gallery/news/national/photos-how-fungus-could-forever-change-the-future-of-manufacturing/collection_e02fe5b0-dd28-55e0-8cd5-321c08036fd3.html#1

http://www.popsci.com/furniture-made-from-mushrooms-could-be-in-your-future

Author: Jacque Gleason
Date Posted: 12-14-2016



First report of resistance to Fluxapyroxad and Fluopyram in Botrytis cinerea from commercial apple fields in Washington State

Used as a pre-harvest fungicide since 2004, Boscalid has been used to control gray mold disease caused by pome fruit pathogens, especially Botrytis cinerea. Besides Boscalid, other SDHIs (Fluopyram and Fluxapyroxad) have been registered to control theses pathogens. Resistance to Boscalid in B. cinerea was first reported in the Washington State, in 2010, and even though they were registered recently, Fluopyram and Fluxapyroxad, there is already data showing resistance in pome fruit orchards in WA.

In the Spring of 2016, decaying apples from 65 packing houses in WA were collected. These apples were cut in half, and with a sterile scalp, plugs measuring 3×3 mm were taken from lesion to be put in acidified potato dextrose agar (APDA). Mycelial plugs were transferred to malt extract agar (MEA) and incubated at 200 C until sporulation was seen. After they were single spored, a total of 1,600 isolates were collected and tested for sensitivity to Boscalid, Fluopyram, and Fluxapyroxad using yeast peptone acetate agar (YBA) at concentrations of 5,1 and 2,5μg/ml. A total of 16.3, 3.2 and 2.1% were the percentage of resistance to Boscalid, Fluopyram, and Fluxapyroxad respectively.

Experiments were also run using detached apples. Eight isolates were used – 2 isolates sensitive to Fluxapyroxad (FluxR), and 2 isolates sensitive to Fluxapyroxad and Fluopyram (Flux-FlupR). Eight organic grown apples were sterilized and wounded twice (5mm wide x 3mm deep) near the stem-end zone. They were immersed in Fluopyram and Fluxapyroxad suspensions at 0.54 and 0.22ml/liter respectively for 30 seconds. Apples immersed only in water were used as control. After 4 hours, apples were inoculated with 25μg/ml of a spore suapension at 105 spores/mlfrom each isolate. They were incubated for 6 days at 200C in sealed boxes containing 200 ml of sterile water. They found that all controls developed lesions, and that the average disease when compared to control were 93.5% for FluxR and 97% for Flux-FlupR .

There is a need for caution when using these fungicides to avoid a rapid selection of B. cinerea population cross-resistance to all SDHIs in the orchards.

Source: apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/abs/10.1094/PDIS-09-16-1384-PDNad

Author: Jacque Gleason
Date Posted: 12-14-2016



Sooty Molds

This interesting specimen was found in the Sanford natural are on the north side of campus. At first I did not know what to think, is this even a fungus? I felt the black mass and to my surprise it was quite soft and spongy. I packed a blackened leaf in my pocket and went on with my hike.

Back in the lab, I Found very interesting structures under the microscope (see below). After some reading, I realized this was a sooty mold in the order Capnodiales. These sooty molds grow on aphid honeydew. It is not actually infecting the tree, rather just growing outside of it living off the sugars from the honeydew. However, it can cover up leaf area which reduces photosynthesis, and can end up delaying the tree.

These fungi are able to grow in this unusual upright positions because their mass of mycelium easily traps and holds moisture, otherwise this position would be too dry.

I was not able to find a good key, or other species specific information on these sooty molds to properly identify it. However, this very well could be Scorias spongiosa, which is specific to the American beech (Fagus grandifolia). This sooty mold is present throughout the United States and Canada. This species produces pseudothecia in the spongy mass. Pseudothecia is a flask like structure with ascospores inside.

If you find sooty molds on one of your trees, some suggest washing off trees with hot water.  You will help wash off the insects, the honeydew, and the fungi. Although it may start again, at least you will return some photosynthetic area to the tree for a time.

http://website.nbm-mnb.ca/mycologywebpages/NaturalHistoryOfFungi/Dothideales.html

http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/sep2007.html

image under dissecting scope of black soot

“soot” under the microscope, note long chains of spores

     

Author: Mikaela Breunig
Date Posted: 12-13-2016



Current Fungal Biology – The importance of the mycobiome in wound treatment

Figure 1. Fungal communities were highly unstable across a number of visits during the 26-week treatment period even in individuals that had their wounds healed by the end of the study.

The human microbiome is defined as the assemblage of microorganisms that live in close association to the human body. These organisms may be mutualists, parasites, or simply just hanging on for the ride. However, how these populations grow, affect human physiology, and how they are structured is not well known. The human mycobiome, a subset of the human microbiome that includes only the fungal species of the microbiome, is even less well studied. Certain species that are a part of the human mycobiome, and indeed the human microbiome as well, are opportunistic pathogens that can cause systemic infections at wound sites if not properly treated especially in people with certain diseases or conditions, such as immunocompromised individuals or those with diabetes. A recent study, published in mBoi, into the effect of the human mycobiome on healing times of patients with diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) found some interesting results.

Most importantly, they found that while the fungal community is not stable over time (Figure 1), and proportions of certain groups of fungi can predict healing times. They also found that even within the small spatial distance of the human foot, there were significant differences in the fungal communities present around DFUs based on the position on the foot (forefoot, midfoot, hindfoot) based on the Shannon Diversity index with the forefoot containing the highest diversity of fungal species with a gradient of decreasing diversity toward the hindfoot. This result has implications across a wide-range of medical paradigms; the human body contains a wide variety of different niches that may be colonized by a wide assemblage of fungal (and indeed bacterial) species, but more research needs to be done, both within and across different human subjects, to fully describe the colonization of these niches.

Unsurprisingly, they found that many of their most abundant Ascomycota species (10 out of 17) are ubiquitous in the environment. Species such as Candida albicans are some of the most commonly identified Ascomycota yeasts in the human mycobiome. On the other hand, some of the yeast species identified (namely, the Basidiomycota yeast Trichospora and Rhodosporium spp.) are capable of forming biofilms with bacteria that may complicate wound treatment and increase healing time in some patients. A collection of these biofilm forming yeasts were more commonly associated with decreased oxygenation of the wound and, as a result, less favorable outcomes like slow healing or amputation.

To read the article for yourself follow the link here.

Literature Cited

Kalan L, Loesche M, Hodkinson BP, Heilmann K, Ruthel G, Gardner SE, Grice EA. 2016. Redefining the chronic-wound microbiome: fungal communities are prevalent, dynamic, and associated with delayed healing. mBio 7(5):e01058-16. doi:10.1128/mBio.01058-16.

Author: Patrick Abeli
Date Posted: 12-13-2016



Stoned, hallucinating coyotes terrorizing California drivers

Overly aggressive coyotes who consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms are terrorizing drivers in Northern California.

Pacific Sun reports that at least two coyotes have been staring down motorists on Highway 1 in Bolinas, a community in Marin County, and striding onto the road. When a driver stops to avoid hitting them, the coyotes usually sniff around the car before running off. It is speculated that the coyotes are eating the hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom (amanita muscaria), and acting out of character.

 

Author: Gayathri Kotamraju
Date Posted: 12-11-2016



The unexpected dangers of mushroom hunting in France

Mushroom hunting is one of the popular activities in France. However, it can be a harmful hobby. In Rhone-Alpes region in France some of the mushrooms had high level of cesium radioactive element. This is believed to be due to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which happened 30 years ago. Locals also think that this could be due to the nuclear tests in 1950’s and 1960’s. The level of the cesium radioactive element is lower than it used to be, but still detectable.

There are also other toxic mushrooms in the region that people had collected without any knowledge, and got poison. Due to this around 100 people fell ill in one week last October.

Another sad story happened while two pickers were collecting mushrooms and 82-year-old man thought that pickers were pheasants and shot them. One of the pickers got shot in the neck and was placed into the hospital, and another one died. Mushroom hunting can be a good and fun activity but people have to be careful and should not die while picking or eating mushroom.

 

References:

http://www.thelocal.fr/20161114/radioactivity-and-poison-dangers-of-mushroom-hunting-in-france

Author: Saltanat Mambetova
Date Posted: 12-09-2016



Bioluminescence in the ghost fungus Omphalotus nidiformis does not attract potential spore dispersing insects

Fig 1. A.The Australian ghost fungus Omphalotus nidiformis in natural daylight and B. Under long exposure using its own light. Note that to the naked eye, the glow is very faint with a more bluish hue. C. The Kangaroo Island study site consisting of sclerophyll woodland dominated by Eucalyptus fasciculosa, and D. A yellow sticky trap in situ, baited with a cut piece of fresh fungus. Images A, C, and D are by PW, and B is courtesy of Australian Museum/Ray Kearney.

Omphalotus nidiformis (Agaricales, Marasmiaceae), commonly called the ghost fungus, is a bioluminescent fungus with a widespread distribution in temperate zones of Australia. A study conducted by researchers at The University of Adelaide, suggests that bioluminescence in O. nidiformis does not attract potential spore dispersing insects, as has been demonstrated in other bioluminescent fungi. Weinstein, et al. reached this conclusion by examining three aspects: circadian rhythmicity of bioluminescence; field-recorded insect abundance at the time of basidiome production; and attractiveness of glowing fungi to flying insects.

 

They found that basidiomes glowed continuously day and night, and were present in winter (June-July) when insect abundance was low. The abundance of potential spore-dispersing insects was very low, as would be expected in mid-winter. Regarding attractiveness, they used sticky-traps in open woodland in the absence of light pollution, baited with fresh bioluminescent O. nidiformis and control sticky traps, for 480 trap-hours on moonless nights. There was no statistical difference in mean insect abundance between treatment and control traps (mean 0.33 and 0.54 individuals per trap night, respectively). Weinstein, et al. hypothesized that for some fungi, bioluminescence may be an incidental by-product of metabolism rather than conferring any selective advantage and that it is possible that the role of bioluminescence differs among evolutionary lineages of fungi and/or with attributes of their growth environments that could affect spore dispersal, such as wind and insect abundance.

Source:

Weinstein P, Delean S, Wood T, Austin AD (2016) Bioluminescence in the ghost fungus Omphalotus nidiformis does not attract potential spore dispersing insects. 7: 229–234

Author: Viviana Ortiz
Date Posted: 12-08-2016



Farming a pathogen?

Normally corn smut is a nuisance in corn fields in the America and Canada, but one Canadian researcher is looking to farm the fungus itself and sell it as a specialty food. This fungus, Ustilago maydis, is called corn smut in the united states. However, in Mexico it is called huitlacoche and is eaten as a specialty food.

Dr. Barry Saville of Trent university wants to bring huitlacoche to Canada, calling it a “corn truffle cob”, and marketing it as a “foodie novelty” to restaurants. He has begun research to find the best fungal strains and best corn hosts that results in the best taste.

Saville also partnered with a culinary program at a local college to develop recipes and evaluate his “corn cob truffles” he is producing. Taste tests were offered at a local market and were received very well.

Exciting news for more fungi-based food products on the market, and makes us re-think how we see some pathogens!

Bright Idea: Delectable corn fungus

Author: Mikaela Breunig
Date Posted: 12-06-2016



New Monsanto Seed with Fungus Coating

Monsanto recently revealed their newest product: a maize seed pre-coated with microscopic fungi that promote plant growth. This is the first commercial product to result from the partnership between Monsanto and Novozymes.

The fungal inoculant is called Acceleron B-300 SAT. It contains spores of the soil fungus Penicillium bilaiae, which promotes plant growth by enhancing the uptake of phosphate. The spores can remain viable on the seeds for up to 2 years after application. It increases maize yield by around 3 bushels per acre (2%). Monsanto plans to add it to all of its seeds sold in the US for the 2017 growing season. The company may potentially extend it to other markets in the future, depending on results from the first season.

This treatment is significant, because simply adding the fungal inoculant increases yields by an amount equivalent to the expected increase from adding an entirely new gene to a genetically modified crop. Also, this is the first time that a living biological component has been added to the collection of chemicals that coat maize seeds sold by Monsanto. Prior to the release of this new seed coating, farmers had to add their own treatment once they had purchased seeds, if they wanted growth-promoting fungi.

The expected income for farmers is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, if yields increase and sales go as planned up until 2025.

Original post at ft.com:
https://www.ft.com/content/ac5a64dc-bae2-11e6-8b45-b8b81dd5d080

Author: Katherine Wood
Date Posted: 12-05-2016



New test for differentiation of wheat blast strains

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The High Plains Journal, which is a highly read Agricultural journal for farmers, put out an article about a new test for discriminating native Magnaporthe oryzae triticum from the new invasive strain.

In 2016 this pathogen which causes “wheat blast” was detected outside of South America for the first time (see a previous blog entry on wheat blast detection in Bangladesh ), making the USDA anxious about being able to detect the pathogen. The problem was, there are already native, not as pathogenic strains of M. oryzae present in the US. To over come this, they created a test that can discrimate the not native strains from the invasive ones.

The new test is sensitive to differentiate 280 different strains from around the world, so it will be useful id other highly pathogenic strains were to arise in the future. Another added benefit apparently is that farmers may confuse symptoms with Fusarium graminearum and this test will be able to rule out this pathogen.

The USDA-ARS is hopeful that this rapid test (24 hour results) will allow for APHIS to inspect wheat coming into the US for this disease.

This article was well written at a farmer level and will hopefully put this test in the back of farmer’s minds if they see something suspicious in their fields.

Link to the full article:

www.hpj.com/crops/new-test-genetically-identifies-fungal-wheat-threat/article_2e14e046-61ee-50aa-a2d6-1ea507e384e9.html

 

 

Author: Suzanne Slack
Date Posted: 12-04-2016



Alternaria alternata Alt a 1 protein could be a cause of asthma allergies in humans

Spores of Alternaria alternata

Spores of Alternaria alternata

Alternaria species are pathogenic to both humans and plants. In humans, it causes several types of diseases such as hypersensitivity, pneumonitis, bronchial asthma, allergic sinusitis and rhinitis. In plants it infects more than 100 species such as potatoes, tomatoes, sugarbeets, and cucumbers. Alternaria species are found in many parts of the world, mostly in warm and humid regions, where spores of this fungus can be present in the atmosphere throughout the year.

A new study from the Center for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (UPM-INIA) showed that A. alternata produces Alt a 1 protein, which is known to be a strong allergenic protein, which is associated with chronic asthma. It was also recently described that Alt a 1 protein is involved with the pathogenesis-related plant defense protein (PR5).

The most important factor is that the Alt a 1 protein must be bound to a ligand for infection to happen. This ligand is a flavonoid. Flavonoid compounds are known to play a role in plant defense. They are known as secondary metabolites involved in various processes in the plant cell, such as signaling, plant growth, and reproduction.

When Alternaria germinates the infected plant expresses pathogenesis related proteins and produces free radicals as a defense response. The Alt a 1-protein/ ligand reaches plant parts, changes the pH and the ligand is released. The Alt a 1 blocks some of the plants defense proteins and the ligand removes the plants free radicals, this combination lowers the defense response of the plant and thus infection occurs.

The following scenario explained the link between the plant mechanism and human mechanism. In humans when A. alternata spores get in to the respiratory system, it can reach bronchial epithelium. The mechanism of infection would be molecular responses similar to those found in the plants.

This information can be useful in terms of studying the human respiratory infection process as well as other allergy related issues in humans.

References:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161014101806.htm

María Garrido-Arandia, Javier Silva-Navas, Carmen Ramírez-Castillejo, Nuria Cubells-Baeza, Cristina Gómez-Casado, Domingo Barber, Juan C. Pozo, Pablo G. Melendi, Luis F. Pacios, Araceli Díaz-Perales. Characterisation of a flavonoid ligand of the fungal protein Alt a 1Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 33468 DOI: 10.1038/srep33468

Author: Saltanat Mambetova
Date Posted: 12-02-2016



$10M Fight Against Ohi’a Death

A new disease caused by the fungus Certocystis fimbriata is infecting and causing mass mortality of Metrosideros polymorpha (commonly called ohi’a), the most abundant native tree in Hawai’i. Additionally, the form and function of the treat make them the most important watershed tree on the island. Healthy trees appear to die within a few days to a few weeks of infection, which is how the disease got its name “Rapid Ohi’a Death” Already, hundreds of thousands of ohi’a have died across thousands of acres of land, including in the South Hilo, Puna, Ka’u, and Kona districts of Hawai’i Island.

Recent spread of rapid ohi’a death

C. fymbriata afffects the xylem systems circulating water through the trees. Current research points to wood-boring beetles as the fungus’ vector, allowing it to reach the xylem in the first place. The beetles burrow into trees to live and breed and then carry spores on their exoskeletons when they move to a new host. There is also research looking into wind dispersal of the fungal spores, which could be even more detrimental than the beetles.

It is unknown how C. fymbriata originally got to Hawai’i, although there are currently two separate species that have been isolated and identified. They are being described and renamed, because there are no exact matches anywhere else in the world.

There are several ways that local residents can help prevent the spread of the fungus. Don’t move ohi’a wood or ohi’a parts, because they could potentially be infected. Don’t ever transport ohi’a to another island, and follow the Hawai’i State Department of Agriculture quarantine rule. Clean tools used for cutting ohi’a with 70% rubbing alcohol, which will sterilize the tools and effectively kill off any fungi. Also use 70% rubbing alcohol on any shoes, after brushing off loose soil; and wash clothing with very hot water and soap. For vehicles, one can use a pressure washer and soap, making sure to get all soil off of the tires and undercarriage.

DLNR - Stand of dead ohi'a trees

DLNR – Stand of dead ohi’a trees

The Hawai’i Tribune-Herald reported recently that “after more than a year of emergency response efforts, collaborators working to stop the spread of rapid ohi’a death are shifting to a long-term research and management strategy”. There is a three-year plan presented that will address several objectives, including community outreach efforts and creating a “sustainable, coordinated, and efficient response” to new outbreaks. Efforts have already reached $2.3 million, with funding coming from federal, state, county, and private sources. The first year of strategic response will total over $3.6 million and the total three-year cost is estimated at $10 million. There are still specific response plans that need to be developed fr seed collection and forest restoration in already-affected areas. However, it remains to be seen if there will be a viable course of action to save ohi’a before rapid death decimates the island’s populations.

Original article at westhawaiitoday.com:
http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/local-news/rallying-ohia-state-plan-outlines-3-year-10m-fungus-fight

What is rapid ohi’a death?
http://cms.ctahr.hawaii.edu/rod/Home.aspx

Author: Katherine Wood
Date Posted: 12-01-2016



Slow-Growing Bacterium can Outcompete Relatives with Help of Fungi

A recent paper by Benjamin Wolfe et al. at Tufts University showed that a slow-growing bacterium can outcompete its relatives with the help of fungi in the genus Scopulariopsis.

In the study, they evaluated the relative abundance of three species Staphylococcus bacteria (see image). Staphylococcus equorum was the slowest grower in lab tests where the bacteria were grown in isolation, without the addition of fungi. With the addition of the fungus ScopulariopsisS. equorum lowered its expression of genes involved in iron uptake and metabolism. The fungus may provide the bacterium with freely available iron needed for growth, allowing the bacterium to stop expending energy to acquire and process iron. This would then allow the bacterium to outcompete other related bacteria that do not receive iron from the fungus. The other bacteria in the experiment did not receive the same benefit of iron acquisition from the fungus, because the relationship between S. equorum and Scopulariopsis is species-specific, meaning that this interaction is unique between them.

E. K. Kastman et al. / mBio

E. K. Kastman et al. / mBio

This study is significant because it shows that there is a decoupling of the interactions between bacteria and fungi in situ (the original habitat) and in vitro (a controlled test container). While the studies comparing bacterial growth and competition in vitro showed S. equorum to be the worst of the three bacteria, it was actually the best when growing with its in situ fungal partner. The ecological processes and molecular mechanisms that shape the distributions of bacteria in agriculture, medicine, industry, etc. are not well understood; we need more studies that can show realistic in situ interactions in order to have the best comprehensive understanding of these microorganisms.

Specifically, one of the bacteria in this study, S. saprophyticus, is a common causal agent of urinary tract infections and is often found in cheese. By working toward a more comprehensive understanding of the interactions between the bacteria in these cheeses and other organisms in situ, cheese producers can better control for safety and quality of their products. Staphylococcus bacteria occur frequently in mammals, including humans, so understanding these bacterium-fungus interactions could have implications beyond cheese production.

Original paper by Kastman et al., published in Nature 2016:
http://mbio.asm.org/content/7/5/e01157-16

Article at nature.com:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v539/n7627/full/539008a.html

Author: Katherine Wood
Date Posted: 12-01-2016



Program Teaches How to Protect Oaks from Fungal Disease

David Roberts, a plant pathologist at Michigan State University, gave a free educational presentation in Kalamazoo to help homewoners and arborists ensure the long-term health of neighborhood trees.

Oak wilt is an aggressive disease that affects oak tree species, and is one of leading disease for tree mortality in the Eastern United States. The fungal pathogen that causes oak wilt is Certocystis fagacearum. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to isolate and identify the fungus until the 1980’s, allowing it to spread to many forest habitats before arborists could figure out how to control it. Oak trees are dominant in many of Michigan’s forests. While the fungus causing oak wilt disease can affect all oaks, red oaks are the most susceptible and often die within a month of infection. The fungus moves to neighboring trees up to 100 feet apart, via root grafts that create an underground connected system for the fungus to travel through. The fungus will spread progressively throughout an entire forest until there are no more oak tree hosts available to colonize.

Historically, trees killed by the oak wilt disease were marked and numbered for removal, because the fungus spreads rapidly through the roots and kills trees within weeks. The presentation showed members of the neighborhood how to identify oak trees affected by disease, and who to contact in order to get those trees removed as soon as possible. Other topics covered included how to manage oak wilt once identified, important dates and restrictions, what to do with disease wood, and guidelines for hiring tree service from an arborist.

For detailed information on how to identify, prevent and control oak wilt disease, please see the USDA brochure linked below.

The presentation was sponsored by ReLeaf Michigan, the City Kalamazoo, the Arboriculture Society of Michigan, and the DNR/Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program.

Infected trees marked to be cut down

Article at mlive.com:
http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2016/11/free_program_in_city_hall_to_t.html
http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/04/oak_wilt_michigan.html

USA Information on How to Identify, Prevent, and Control Oak Wilt:
http://na.fs.fed.us/pubs/howtos/ht_oakwilt/identify_prevent_and_control_oak_wilt_print.pdf

Author: Katherine Wood
Date Posted: 11-30-2016



Scientists reanimate 220-year-old brewer’s yeast

Marine archaeologists excavated the shipwreck of the Syndey Cove in the 1990s and discovered 26 unopened bottles of premium beer.

Marine archaeologists excavated the shipwreck of the Syndey Cove in the 1990s and discovered 26 unopened bottles of premium beer.

In February 1797, the British trading ship the Sydney Cove was caught in a storm as it neared the end of its journey from Calcutta to Port Jackson, the prison colony that would later become the city of Sydney, Australia. The ship sank after running aground on an island that is now named Port Preservation, but the 17 crew members managed to survive the wreck. Sadly, only three crewmen managed to endure the rest of the journey to Port Jackson. The disaster was notable because of resulted in one of Australia’s earliest shipwrecks, and forced the crew to trek through the largely uncharted island Tasmania.

One of the unopened beer bottles recovered from the shipwreck.

One of the unopened beer bottles recovered from the shipwreck.

After the remains of the Sydney Cove was found in 1977, it was excavated by marine archeologists during the 1990s who recovered the ship’s cargo including wine, brandy, gin, and a few casks of cheap beer. Most notably, they also found 26 bottles of premium beer probably meant for the British officers serving in the prison colony. Recently, scientists from Australia, Belgium, France, and Germany have taken samples from these bottles to study the microbes inside.

The team is led by David Thurrowgood at the Queen Victoria Museum at Launceston in Tasmania where he works as a conservator and chemist. They hope to study microorganisms that were important participants in the European diet before the Industrial Revolution there and their possible abilities to prevent or mitigate modern autoimmune diseases.

Living yeast cultured from the microbes living under the ocean inside the unopened beer bottles.

Living yeast cultured from the microbes living under the ocean inside the unopened beer bottles.

After discovering that microbes were still living in some of the beer bottles, scientists deposited a sample in the Queen Victoria Museum and used another sample to isolate five strains of yeast and several species of bacteria from the ancient beer. DNA analysis revealed that the yeasts are genetically similar to Trappist ale yeast, which was developed by brewers in European monasteries. Armed with this knowledge, and contemporary accounts on how British beer was made in the late 18th century, the scientists used the strongest yeast to brew restoration of the beer as it many have originally existed on the Sydney Cove. They were pleasantly surprised when their brew tasted fresh and cider-like, similar to descriptions of beer from that historical period.

Preservation Ale was brewed in the lab using yeast isolated from the shipwrecked beer.

Preservation Ale was brewed in the lab using yeast isolated from the shipwrecked beer.

Scientists also used the Preservation Ale yeast to bake bread.

Scientists also used the Preservation Ale yeast to bake bread.

The team also used to restored yeast to bake bread using a common technique from the time. Before people knew about microbes and their participation in fermentation, they often mixed foam from beer to leaven bread dough. Thurrowgood and his team attempted to do this in the lab and successfully created a risen loaf of bread.

The beer, named Preservation Ale has quickly gained a positive reputation in the Australian brewing community. Thurrowgood is pleased to have been approached by several companies

to develop the recipe for wide scale consumption. He hopes to eventually work with the industry to sell Preservation Ale and use the proceeds to fund future research on his project. He also hopes to develop a brewery and museum dedicated to the preservation of artifacts from the Sydney Cove. Before he pursues these ambitions, however, he plans to continue his investigations into these old yeasts. He is particularly keen to sample the wine from the Sydney Cove to see if any yeasts are surviving there.

Sources:

Metcalfe, T. 2016, November 10. Oldest beer brewed from shipwreck’s 22-year-old yeast microbes. Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/56814-oldest-beer-recreated-from-shipwreck-yeast.html. [Accessed November 30, 2016].

Author: Rachel Osborn
Date Posted: 11-30-2016



Wheat Blast in Bangladesh For First Time

blast-wheat-duveiller-brazil-2009-2

Infected wheat spikes have shriveled or no grain at all

Wheat fields in Bangladesh were devastated with a new disease to the region known as a wheat blast. This new disease damaged over 15,000 hectares of wheat fields where wheat is the second most important food crop. Wheat blast is a fungal disease caused by Magnaporthe oryzae. This fungus is known to be pathogenic of rice, but apparently it is also pathogenic on wheat. Unlike in rice, where M. oryzae attacks leaves, the fungus damages the head of the wheat and it is difficult to manage with fungicides. M. oryzae has been found in South America. In 2009 the outbreak of this disease caused one-third loss of wheat in Brazil. Since it has been found in South America some of the regions stopped growing wheat. In the United States, wheat blast was found in Kentucky in 2011, but with vigorous surveillance it was stopped from spreading to other places.

In South America scientists noticed that hot and humid conditions were favorable for M. oryzae. Such conditions are also present in Bangladesh, and this disease could migrate to other parts of Asia where they have similar conditions. A main management strategy in Bangladesh is to burn infected fields and explain to farmers not to sow seeds from infected areas. Bangladesh officials are hoping to find more tolerant wheat varieties to this fungus and increase agricultural practices such as seed treatments and crop rotation. It is unknown how this fungus got into Bangladesh. One of the hypotheses is that the strain of the infected wheat was brought from South America. Another hypothesis is that M. oryzae infects wild grasses and disease jump from grass to wheat, which believe happened in Kentucky where rye-grass strain infected wheat.

The outbreak of plant and human diseases is not rare and with rapid data sharing scientist from UK hope to prevent wheat blast spread in Asia. Scientists from Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK have created an open wheat blast website where they would like to encourage scientists and researchers from around the world to share data to combat this disease. Their hope is to get a more accessible genome data of this fungus as well as different strains of M. oryzae. This website can provide useful information to combat the outbreak of M. oryzae in Bangladesh and prevent other sudden outbreaks in other parts of the world.

To read more about wheat blast in Bangladesh please visit original paper which was published in October, 2016 https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-016-0309-7

References:

http://www.nature.com/news/devastating-wheat-fungus-appears-in-asia-for-first-time-1.19820

http://www.samakal.net/2016/04/20/5082

 

Author: Saltanat Mambetova
Date Posted: 11-28-2016



Myco-materials may be the future of fabric manufacturing

Philip Ross began his career working as a chef and artist in the 1980s. As he worked with mushrooms in the kitchen, he was inspired to use them in an architectural art project that eventually grew into an entrepreneurial venture in 2013 when he started MycoWorks.

Myco-leather is a flexible, leather-like material made from the mycelium of Ganoderma lucidum.

Myco-leather is a flexible, leather-like material made from the mycelium of Ganoderma lucidum.

The start-up company grows Ganoderma lucidum into flexible leather-like fabric as well as hard building materials. Although the building material is still under development, the company’s work with their leather product is astonishing. MycoWorks uses G. lucidum because it is easy to grow on sawdust, cornhusks, and agricultural waste. This species also has a rich history of medicinal use in Asia and therefore a vast body of academic literature documenting how it interacts with humans.

Myco-leather easy easy to manipulate. It can be grown in a variety of thicknesses and shapes and can be easily dyed to the desired color.

Myco-leather easy easy to manipulate. It can be grown in a variety of thicknesses and shapes and can be easily dyed to the desired color.

The fungal mycelium makes an ideal raw material because it requires much less investment of resources than traditional animal leather, and the leather material created from it is breathable, water-wicking, and naturally antimicrobial. The “fabric” can also be manipulated to grow to almost any desired thickness, into various shapes and sizes, and even to create fasteners what would have to be sewn into more traditional textiles.

Scientists at MycoWorks are still working with the production environment of this material by subtly changing the fungal growth conditions to encourage the most beneficial phenotypes. Specifically, they are studying the durability of myco-leather and the scalability of their manufacturing processes. Though their product is not yet available to the public, Ross, and the MycoWorks staff hope to accomplish this goal soon.

Sources:

http://www.mycoworks.com/

Tu, C. 2016, November. The Fungi in your future: a new start-up reimagine fungi as a multi-faceted, “programable” material. Science Friday. http://www.sciencefriday.com/articles/the-fungi-in-your-future/. Accessed November 27, 2016.

Author: Rachel Osborn
Date Posted: 11-28-2016



Domestication influences fungal community composition of sunflower

Studying the assembly of fungal and bacterial communities on plant roots can help us understand how to manage microbiomes to improve crop health and yields. However, our current understanding of assembly of fungal assembly on plant roots is lacking and furthermore we do not have a good understanding on how plant domestication influence fungal communities. A study published in New Phytologist by Leff et al. (2016) examined how domestication of Helianthus annuus (sunflowers) influenced the assembly of fungal and bacterial communities on roots and if root and rhizosphere communities were influenced by vertical transmission through seeds. Bacterial and fungal root, rhizosphere and seed community structure differed but only fungal community composition, not diversity, differed based on domestication. Putative pathogen abundance was lower in modern strains than in wild strains and the proportion of putative fungal symbionts was lower in the wild ancestors (Figure 1). This suggests that there are important effects of plant domestication events on mycobiome assembly. There was little effect of vertical transmission on the root and rhizosphere fungal communities which suggest that many root endophytes are derived from the rhizosphere.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-12-28-31-am

Figure 1. From Leff et al. (2016). (Top) The proportion of potential plant pathogens and (bottom) symbions from different domestication events.

 

Leff JW, Lynch RC, Kane NC, Fierer N (2016) Plant domestication and the assembly of bacterial and fungal communities associated with strains of the common sunflower, Helianthus annuus. New Phytol. doi: 10.1111/nph.14323

Author: Zach Noel
Date Posted: 11-28-2016



Mycelial networks from soil oomycetes promote bacterial horizontal gene transfer.

The exchange of genetic material between bacteria, known as Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT) is an evolutionary mechanism that allows bacteria to acquire new traits hundreds of times faster than they would do by mutation. This process normally occurs in nature in three different forms known as transformation, transduction and conjugation; And the speed at which each of these processes occurs directly affects the evolution of any bacteriome.

The soil provides sufficient bacterial richness and diversity for any of these processes to occur. However, the transfer of genetic material by conjugation requires the proximity of the bacterial cells and it is believed that this process does not occur among  bacteria discontinuously distributed. However, a group of researchers from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research – UfZ in Germany have shown that mycelia of oomycete organisms are able to promote the conjugation of bacteria geographically separated.

In the study published in Nature, the authors demonstrated that the mycelium of the oomycete Pythium ultimatum may act as a highway that allows the movement of  donor bacteria to the proximity of recipient bacteria, and thus promotes the conjugation of species spatially separated. The researchers performed a small but potent experiment, where they placed two different bacteria with an air gap of approximately 400 μm between them in a Petri dish and then inoculated the media with P. ultimatum. The donor bacterial strain had genetic information to express two fluorescent proteins (red and green), but due to the presence of an inhibitor in its genome, it could only express a red phenotype. In contrast, the recipient bacteria did not have any information to express a colorful genotype and only the movement of genetic information between the strains would allow it to express a green phenotype.

Figure 1 shows the interesting results of the research where the presence of green bacteria (transconjugants) in the media and along the mycelia provide evidence that conjugation occurred and that hyphae can act as focal point for HGT.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-55-11-pmFigure1. Adapted from Berthold et al., 2016 . A) Combined image of red and green fluorescence channels with an overlay of the mycelial structure shown in white. Transconjugants can be seen emerging along the network structures. Scale bars represent 500 μm. Images were taken 3 days after incubation. B) Combined epifluorescence and transmission light image showing mycelium of P. ultimum grown between separate agar pieces inoculated with donor (red) or wildtype (colourless) cells, respectively. Emerging transconjugants (green) are visible along the mycelium. Outlined area is shown in detail in (C). C) Combined image of red and green fluorescence channels showing the arrangement of donor and transconjugant cells along the mycelial segment.

 

Source: Tom Berthold, Florian Centler, Thomas Hübschmann, Rita Remer, Martin Thullner, Hauke Harms & Lukas Y. Wick. (2016). Mycelia as a focal point for horizontal gene transfer among soil bacteria. Scientific Reports. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep36390#ref18

 

Author: Julian Bello
Date Posted: 11-27-2016



An early warning for forest health

Lichens have been studied as an early warning system for forest health by the United States Forest Service since the 1980s. Lichens are sensitive to pollution as they readily absorb pollutants from the air as a function of the concentration of pollutants in the air. Therefore by tracking the abundance of lichen species over time and tracking the amount of pollutants in their tissues can give an indication of what might happen next to plant and animal species. By studying pollutant concentrations in lichens the Forest Service can make recommendations on how much pollution is too much by noting when it impacts lichens, something that pollution motoring machines cannot necessarily do.  The Forest Service has about 6,000 designated “lichen monitoring” sites where data has been collected over the past 25 years. This data, until now has not been available to the public. In 2017, a database, containing the baseline for lichen species at each of the 6,000 sites will be available. Scientists are excited to use this data to study climate change in the coming 10 or 50 years.

112616_lichen_map_new_730

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/lichens-are-early-warning-system-forest-health?mode=topic&context=80&tgt=nr

Author: Zach Noel
Date Posted: 11-27-2016



Vital AM fungi damaged by GM Bt cotton

A recent paper, titled “Evidences of inhibited arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal development and colonization in multiple lines of Bt cotton”, by Chen et al., found that transgenic cotton genetically modified to express Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), an insect toxin, inhibits the development of Rhizophagus irregularis, a common beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus.

The highlights of the paper include:

– Bt cotton inhibited spore germination and pre-symbiotic hyphal differentiation
– Appressorium number decreased on Bt roots
– Root colonization intensity and arbuscule abundance decreased within Bt roots
– More collapsed arbuscules were observed in Bt roots
– Interference of signal perception or Bt toxicity directly impact AM fungi

The negative effects of Bt cotton on AM fungi are wide-reaching. AM fungi form associations with the vast majority of plant species, supplying plants with key nutrients and water, in exchange for carbohydrates (sugars) made via photosynthesis. They can enable plants to better handle biotic and abiotic stresses, like drought, salinity, and disease. In addition to helping the plants that they are directly connected to, AM fungi form a large underground network, connecting the majority, if not all, of the plants in a community. The negative effects of Bt on the local AM fungi could have negative consequences for the entire plant community, which could lead to a domino effect throughout other trophic levels. AM fungi “are important mediators of the wider ecosystem function, with mycorrhizal biodiversity correlating with ecosystem variability, nutrient capture, and plant productivity.”

These negative effects on AM fungi may also explain the low yields seen with Bt cotton. AM fungi are often used in regions with limited nutrients to relieve stress and increase crop yields. One study even found a 20% increase in cassava yields in Colombian fields with additions of AM fungi. These kinds of studies demonstrate the importance of understanding species interactions (both at the local and community scale) for crop growth.

Article at TheEcologist.Org:
http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988361/vital_soil_fungi_damaged_by_gmo_bt_cotton.html

Original paper:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167880916302547

Author: Katherine Wood
Date Posted: 11-27-2016



‘Snake fungal disease’ plagues North America

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The first observation that something might be wrong with North American snakes was in 2006. Scientists noticed a severe population crash in timber rattle snakes in New Hampshire, with less than 50% of snakes surviving after the bottle neck event. The cause was determined to be a fungal infection on the snake’s skin. Since this initial outbreak more than 30 species of snakes have been afflicted with the disease.

The fungus is able to attack if the snake’s skin has been damaged. Most snakes have an autoimmune response to the attack, however if the scab falls off and flesh is exposed the fungus can really take off. Another observed issue is when the fungus attacks skin on the snake’s head. This can interfere with the snakes ability to hunt and the can starve to death. The other issue is that it can make a snake stay outside to ‘sun’ longer (when they rest on rocks etc absorbing heat) and can be injured from doing so.

The main snake family that is the most susceptible are rattle snakes. The article claimed this will make it hard for the public to be concerned about this disease, since most people will be happy to see these snakes gone.

What was the most interesting part of this article is that the causal agent has just been identified and its a long known soil dweller, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola. The researchers that published the articles identifying this fungus looked through museu, collections to see when this started. According to one, they could not find it past 2000, so this was a recent occurrence. They noted that the fungus was resistant to agricultural fungicides, that the weather patterns had been different, and that there were smaller populations of rattle snakes.

The article goes way more in depth than an average BBC story and is worth a read:

www.bbc.com/earth/story/20161122-in-the-last-decade-a-mystery-disease-has-hit-american-snakes

Author: Suzanne Slack
Date Posted: 11-27-2016



More morels after wildfires

 

Based on research led by the University of Montana, with co-authors from the University of Washington and other institutions, a paper was published on Oct. 1 in the journal Forest Ecology and Management  documenting and analyzing the patterns of morel growth following a wildfire.  Andrew Larson, an associate professor at the University of Montana, and other collaborators drew from a meticulously mapped, well-studied section of forest in Yosemite National Park for their morel research. The roughly 60-acre plot burned during the 2013 Rim Fire, but for four years prior, these researchers — along with more than 100 students and professionals volunteering their time — have mapped every live tree, downed wood slab and shrub patch. For a week in May 2014, the researchers searched for morels in 1,119 plots within the Yosemite research site. They found the mushrooms did in fact cluster in parts of the forest that had burned completely, where no “fuel” was left on the ground. These are areas where the fire consumes everything along the forest floor, leaving only blackened soil, ash or burnt needles. Additionally, they found that morels clustered in groups across burned areas, meaning that after finding one mushroom, the likelihood of finding more increased within 10 to 23 feet of the first. This is the first study in Yosemite, and the entire Sierra Nevada, to examine morel abundance after fire. The park has a morel recreational harvest limit of 1 pint a day per person. The researchers believe that limit could potentially quadruple without depleting park morels, given what they now know about the mushroom’s abundance in the region. They estimate that burned white fir and sugar pine forests throughout Yosemite — the type of forest that burned in their study site — could produce more than one million morels a year in the park. The researchers expect similar clustering patterns among morels in forests in Washington and Oregon that also see mushrooms pop up after fire disturbances. Cansler, for example, has found fruiting morels in Washington’s North Cascades after a fire at nearly 6,000 feet in August — not a typical time for fruiting, but indicative of their tight relationship with fire.

 

Frequency of morel counts within 3.14 m2 circular plots within the Yosemite Forest Dynamics Plot (left) and relationship of morel abundance to proportion of 3.14 m2 plot surface burned (right; results have been “jittered” by adding small random variation in the x and y dimensions to avoid plotting over identical data values). May 2014 inset photo by A.J. Larson.

 

Reference:

Andrew J. Larson, C. Alina Cansler, Seth G. Cowdery, Sienna Hiebert, Tucker J. Furniss, Mark E. Swanson, James A. Lutz. Post-fire morel (Morchella) mushroom abundance, spatial structure, and harvest sustainability. Forest Ecology and Management, 2016; 377: 16 DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2016.06.038

Author: Gayathri Kotamraju
Date Posted: 11-21-2016



Bananageddon! Save the Bananas!

Experts from the University of California and the Netherlands discovered three fungal diseases have now evolved into one deadly new threat to the world crop. The Cavendish banana plants all originated from one plant and so as clones, they all have the same genotype which is why they are so vulnerable to disease. “We have demonstrated that two of the three most serious banana fungal diseases have become more virulent by increasing their ability to manipulate the banana’s metabolic pathways and make use of its nutrients,” said UC Davis plant pathologist Ioannis Stergiopoulos. These fungal diseases are now called “Sigatoka complex” comprising of Mycosphaerella fijiensis (causal agent of black leaf streak disease), M. musicola (causal agent of yellow Sigatoka disease), and M. eumusae (causal agent of eumusae leaf spot disease). Disease diagnosis in the Mycosphaerella complex of banana is based on the presence of host symptoms and fungal fruiting structures, which hamper preventive management strategies. The exact distribution of these three species and their disease epidemiology remain unclear because their symptoms and life cycles are rather similar.

Source:

https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/genome-sequencing-may-help-avert-banana-armageddon/

Citation:

Mahdi Arzanlou, Edwin C. A. Abeln, Gert H. J. Kema, Cees Waalwijk, Jean Carlier, Ineke de Vries, Mauricio Guzmán, and Pedro W. Crous

Phytopathology 2007 97:9, 1112-1118

Author: Gayathri Kotamraju
Date Posted: 11-21-2016



A quorum sensing-system regulates virulence in the fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans

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Graphical abstract (Homer et al., 2016)

Quorum sensing (QS) is a mechanism of cell-cell communication, in which secreted signaling molecules influence population function and gene expression. Bacterial QS systems and its role in virulence has been extensively researched with especial focus on pathogenic bacteria. However, QS-like phenomena in eukaryotes, have been just reported and their functions, molecules and mechanisms remain largely unknown. QS in bacteria involve the production, detection, and response to extracellular signaling molecules called autoinducers, which are either peptides or small molecules such as acyl-homoserine lactones (AHLs).  Homer et al. identified a quorum-sensing system in the pathogenic fungus Cryptococcus neoformans. The Qsp1 (quorum sensing–like peptide 1), was identified as the central signaling molecule. Qsp1 is a 11–amino acid peptide functioning intracellularly and required for fungal virulence and to control intracellular growth, cell wall, and protease activities.

Qsp1 is produced extracellularly by proteolytic cleavage of its precursor, proQsp1, which is a secreted 24–amino acid pro-peptide encoded by the QSP1 gene. CHIP-seq studies revealed that QSP1 is a direct target of three transcription factors required for virulence. To assess the role of QSP1 in virulence, mutant C. neoformas lacking QSP1 (qsp1Δ cells) were used to conduct intranasal infection of mice. C. neoformas qsp1Δ mutants exhibit attenuated infection and slowed tissue accumulation, and elicited an altered inflammatory response compared with wild-type C. neoformas. Cultivated qsp1Δ cells at room temperature form dry, wrinkled colonies, in contrast to smooth, mucoid colonies formed by wild-type cells. Mutant qsp1Δ cells treated with synthetic Qsp1 or growing near wild type cells reverted the phenotype to smooth cells, suggesting that Qsp1 promotes cell wall function at high cell densities. In addition, RNA-seq experiments revealed that many of the genes differentially expressed between mutants and wild-type cells were involved in cell wall biosynthesis.

Homer et al. elucidate additional components of the Qsp1 signaling pathway. They identified Pqp1 as the secreted protease that cleaves proQsp1 and the oligopeptide Opt1 as the responsible for transport Qsp1 to the interior of the cells. Intracellular function of Qsp1 was confirmed by expression of mature Qsp1 intracellularly, which complemented qsp1Δ phenotypes. A receptor for Qsp1 has not been recognized; though, the transcription factor Liv3 was required for most of the Qsp1 functions, and liv3Δ mutants formed dry colonies. This study demonstrates a quorum sensing system in eukaryotes, which according to Homer et al., based on the presence of some components in the ancestor of C. neoformans, is likely to have evolved prior to the emergence of the pathogenic Cryptococcus neoformans/ Cryptococcus gattii species complex.

Source: Homer CM, Summers DK, Goranov AI, Clarke SC, Wiesner DL, Diedrich JK, Moresco JJ, Toffaletti D, Upadhya R, Caradonna I, et al (2016) Intracellular Action of a Secreted Peptide Required for Fungal Virulence. Cell Host Microbe 19: 849–864

 

Author: Viviana Ortiz
Date Posted: 11-21-2016



$112,000 Truffle!

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Recently, at the 17th annual World Alba White Truffle Charity Auction, which took place in Piedmont, Italy and Philadelphia, a white truffle sold for $112,000! This truffle was about 2.5 lbs and the bidding began at $480 an ounce. White truffles have about a seven day shelf life so time was crucial. This was a fancy event with world class chefs cooking truffles and people bidding on world class truffles. One chef, Hamann, who was cooking at the event had about $20,000 worth of truffles to cook with. The Italians were much more enthusiastic about bidding on truffles than the Americans, but the auctioneer, Freeman, kept the auction going. The remaining two bidders were Giordano and Del Raso, the event chairs and Dong Zhenxiang executive chef at Da Dong Roast Duck in Beijing, China. Unfortunately this truffle did not end up in the United States and you will have to fly to Beijing and eat at Da Dong Roast Duck in the next week in order to taste it. However, the whole event raised about $60,000 for the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF).

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/11/20/502592358/a-112-000-white-truffle-at-auction-philly-embraces-fungi-mania

Author: Zach Noel
Date Posted: 11-21-2016



Antarctic fungi able to survive martian conditions

In preparation for life-detection experiments in Mars, scientists perform studies using terrestrial organism able to grow in extreme conditions analog of Mars conditions. Fungi and cyanobacteria able to grow in Antarctic lie inside the narrow spectra of organisms than can be used for such purpose, due to the demanding conditions of their habitat characterized by cold and arid climate and the seasonally enhanced UV radiation.

However, to further evaluate the real ability of these terrestrial species to grow in Martian conditions and better understand what type of lifeforms may have lived on the Red Planet – or potentially still exist there – European scientists sent the antarctic rock-inhabiting meristematic fungi Cryomyces antarcticus (Fig 1C) and Cryomyces minteri (Fig 1D) as well as fragments of rocks colonized by the Antarctic cryptoendolithic community (Fig 1A) to the International Space Station that orbits a 241 mi from earth (Fig 1E).

Both fungi survived under an extreme desiccation of 10-5 Pa vacuum and a UV radiation (200–400 nm) during a preparatory test and surprisingly they also survived simulated martian conditions in low-Earth orbit on board the ISS after 18 months of exposition (1.6% argon, 0.15% oxygen, 2.7% nitrogen, 370 ppm H2O, in CO2 at a pressure of 103 Pa) . However, maybe the most relevant outcome of this research was the high stability of the cellular DNA of these fungi to the extremely demanding conditions of the space.

These results will help to determine what types of organisms can survive Mars’s harsh conditions and it might also provide some clues as to what researchers should look for on the Red Planet.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-2-38-27-pmFig 1. (A) Section of a dried sandstone fragment, colonized by a stratified cryptoendolithic microbial community. (B) SEM micrograph showing growth of Cryomyces on quartz crystals of fractured sandstone.(C) The micro-colonial black yeast-like fungi Cryomyces antarcticus. (D) and C. minteri. (E) An astronaut setting the EXPOSE-E platform onto the International Space.  The EXPOSE-E platform, where Antarctic fungi and lichens are placed is shown in the bottom left. Adapted from Onofri et al., 2015 .

Sources:  Silvano Onofri, Jean-Pierre de Vera, Laura Zucconi, Laura Selbmann, Giuliano Scalzi, Kasthuri J. Venkateswaran, Elke Rabbow, Rosa de la Torre, Gerda Horneck. Survival of Antarctic Cryptoendolithic Fungi in Simulated Martian Conditions On Board the International Space Station. Astrobiology, 2015; 15 (12): 1052 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2015.1324

Author: Julian Bello
Date Posted: 11-21-2016



Endophytic Trichoderma Protects Tomato Plants Against Nematodes

Figure 1: Tomato seedling growing with split roots.

Figure 1: Tomato seedling growing with split roots.

One major enemy of tomato plants is the nematode Meloidogyne incognita. This pest infests the roots of the plant, inducing the formation of a gall where the nematodes lives protected from other predators while draining energy and nutrients from its host. Tomato plants combat these enemies by producing toxins to deter or kill them. Scientists have known that endophytic root endosymbionts from the genus Trichoderma seem to enhance the plant’s ability to fight infection, however the mechanism it operates with has remained elusive until recently.

This month, German scientists published a paper in The New Phytologist revealing some of the metabolic details of this symbioses. They confirmed that Trichoderma is beneficial to tomato plants by examining plants with and without endophytes each growing with their roots split between to pots of soil (figure 1). This allowed them to expose each individual to environments with and without the nematodes to verify the advantage of endophytic infection (figure 2).

Figure 2: Tomato roots infected with nematodes showing the difference in severity of colonization between untreated plants, and plants with treated locally or systemically with Trichoderma root endophytes.

Figure 2: Tomato roots infected with nematodes showing the difference in severity of colonization between untreated plants, and plants with treated locally or systemically with Trichoderma root endophytes.

They also used these experimental plants to investigate the genetic pathways that manage the plants internal defenses against nematodes. They discovered that

strengthens the tomato plants’ defenses by ‘priming’ their hormonal defenses to be more reactive to infection. Before infection, Trichoderma enhances salicylic acid – regulated tomato defenses to resist nematode establishment. Once the plants are colonized by the pests, the root endophytes improve the plant’s ability to mitigate their negative effects by priming the jasmonic acid – regulated defense pathways. The researchers hope to use this knowledge to develop new systemic or topical inoculants that can help tomato cops fight harmful soil nematodes.

 

Sources:

Martinez-Medina, A., I. Fernandez, G.B. Lok, M.J. Pozo, C.M.J. Pieterse, and S.C.M. Van Wees. 2016. Shifting from priming of salicylic acid – to jasmonic acid – regulated defenses by Trichoderma protects tomato plants against the root knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita. The New Phytologist. DOI:10.1111/nph.14251.

Phys.org. Tomato plants are more resistant against nematodes when colonized by a fungus. http://phys.org/news/2016-11-tomato-resistant-nematodes-colonized-fungus.html. Accessed November 17, 2016.

Author: Rachel Osborn
Date Posted: 11-17-2016



Fusarium and aphid infestation increases mycotoxin levels in wheat

plp847Fusarium langsethiae is a fungal pathogen of cereal crops such as wheat, oak and barley. F. langsethiae is a newly identified species and similarly to other Fusarium species, upon infection it produces mycotoxins; such as H2 and T-2 that are known to poses significant threat to mammals. F. langsethiae has been an increasing problem in Europe having been observed in ten countries including Russia, Finland and the UK. Scientists at the University of Nottingham an Rothamsted Research, in the UK, hypothesized that when plants are infected by both F. langsethiae and grain aphids (Sitobion avenae), there is an increase in H-2 and T-2 mycotoxins. They also hypothesized that aphids transmit F. langsethiae from infected plants to healthy plants. A number of transmission experiments with wingless and winged aphids as well as chemical analyses were performed to test these hypotheses. The transmission hypothesis did not prove that aphids could transmit disease from infected to healthy plants. However, the study proved that T-2 and H-2 mycotoxin levels increased if the fungus and aphids infested the same plants. The mycotoxin levels increased three fold compared to those plants that did not have aphids. Also, disease incidence increased when aphids were present. This study corroborates previous studies in which it was shown that aphids play a significant role in increasing toxin levels in cereal crops infected with Fusarium species. The aphid infestation is a risk factor for accumulating increased level of H-2 and T-2 toxins in wheat and other cereal crops.

References: J. Drakulic, O. Ajigboe, R. Swarup, T. Bruce, and R. V. Ray, (2016) Aphid infestation increases  Fusarium langsethiae and T-2 and H-2 mycotoxins in wheat. http://aem.asm.org/content/82/22/6548

 

Author: Saltanat Mambetova
Date Posted: 11-10-2016



Rhizopus infections kill several immunocompromized patients in Pittsburgh

Shelby Slagle, a 27 years old heart transplant patient died last June in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) from an opportunistic Rhizopus sp. Infection. In the 18 months preceding her death, two patients who had stayed in the same room as Slagle also died from similar infections, and more patients have recently become fatally infected by this fungus throughout the UPMC hospital system.

Craig Amick, of Canal Winchester, OH stands at the gravesite Oct 19, 2016 of his daughter, Shelby Slagle, who died last year. Shelby had contracted a fungal infection after undergoing a heart transplant at UPMC. (Photo by Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review)

Craig Amick, of Canal Winchester, OH stands at the gravesite Oct 19, 2016 of his daughter, Shelby Slagle, who died last year. Shelby had contracted a fungal infection after undergoing a heart transplant at UPMC. (Photo by Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review)

Slagle was born with a heart anomaly that created a hole between the ventricles in her heart. Despite a normal childhood, she developed increasing fatigue and abdominal edema during her early 20’s. in 2014, after a pacemaker failed to relieve her symptoms, doctors at UPMC put her on the transplant list to receive a replacement for her slowly failing heart. She received a new heart from an unknown female donor on May 4, 2015 and began to recover normally.

Unfortunately, her health suddenly declined two and a half weeks after the surgery when she was moved into a negative pressure room in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit. She developed an infected bedsore that resisted treatment. Doctors quickly diagnosed her with a Rhizopus infection and performed surgery to remove the infected tissue, but the procedure failed to improve Slagle’s prognosis. She progressively declined, requiring a breathing tube and suffering from hallucinations until finally dying on June 26, 2015.

After her death, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been working with UPMC to address this troubling pattern of fungal infections. They have advised (and UPMC has agreed) to stop placing immunosuppressed patients like Slagle into negative pressure rooms until greater preventative measures can be developed.

Negative pressure rooms are designed to protect hospitals from the spread of infectious diseases. They draw outside air into the room, and prevent it from moving back into the hospital. Thus, if a patient with a dangerous infection is housed in the room, the rest of the hospital is safe because infected air inside the room cannot recirculate within the building. Recent consideration has proposed that despite this advantage, these rooms may be harmful to people with compromised immune systems or on immunosuppressant drugs (such as transplant recipients) because the continuous flow of air into the room may carry spores from dangerous fungi like Rhizopus. There is no way to be sure, but doctors presume that this is how Slagle and the other patients became infected.

In August 2016 UBMC settled lawsuits with the families of these unfortunate patients, including $1.35 million settlements each paid to Slagle’s husband and parents.

Source:

http://triblive.com/news/editorspicks/11327491-74/shelby-transplant-amick

Author: Rachel Osborn
Date Posted: 11-10-2016



Morels appear in patches after wildfires

Figure 1. Location of sampling plots in Yosemite National Park

Figure 1. Location of sampling plots in Yosemite National Park.

As a Michigander, spring morel (Morchella) forages are a highly anticipated time of the year for this tasty fungus. Anecdotally, many foragers will consistently find this mushroom in great abundance one year after a wildfire. To document whether this common knowledge is correct, scientists documented the abundance and spatial variance of morels across a research site in the Sierra Nevada, one-year post burn. The study site was in Yosemite National Park during 2014, surveying 1,119-3.14 m2 plots over 2,240 m of transects (Figure 1). The researchers found morel fruiting bodies in 17.8% of plots. When estimated, this indicates an average of 1693 morels per ha. When spatially analyzed up to 9 m, an autocorrelation was discovered up to 7 m, but was strongest below 3 m, indicating a patchiness in Yosemite National Park. Therefore, it was recommended to foragers to search up to 7 m near a discovered morel.

However, the question remained as to the causation for patchiness in morel mushrooms after a fire. The authors created a conceptual model based up the following hypotheses to address this question: 1) Pre-fire morel mycelial colonies are distributed in small spatial scales, 2) The pre-fire vegetation is also spatially heterogeneous at small scales, 3) The fire may vary in intensity and behavior, creating diverse post-fire biogeochemistry, 4) Post-fire environmental conditions may vary and alter fruiting season production, and 5) All aforementioned conditions need to align to create a productive morel patch.

A final conclusion from this study addresses the concerns from over harvesting if governmental regulation on collections were lifted. Authors state at least 4 L per person per day of morels could be harvested the first year post-fire and not harm the future production. This would be an increase from the current 1 pint per person per day.

University of Washington. (2016, October 11). Morel mushrooms pop up, cluster together after wildfires. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 9, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161011130005.htm

Larson AJ, Cansler CA, Cowder SG, Hiebert S, Furniss TJ, Swanson ME, Lutz JA (2016) Post-fire morel (Morchella) mushrooms abundance, spatial structure, and harvest sustainability. Forest Ecology and Management. 377:16-25. 

Author: Amy Baetsen-Young
Date Posted: 11-09-2016



New warning over spread of ash dieback

According to research realized at the University of Exeter, a public research university in the United Kingdom, the ash dieback fungus (Hymenoxyphus fraxineus) could spread quickly and affect more trees than expected. H. fraxineus is a virulent fungal pathogen of ash trees first recognized in Poland, in 1992, and it has spread throughout Europe causing losses.  Ash dieback disease is characterized by leaf loss and crown dieback in infected trees. It kills the leaves, the branches, the trunk, and finally leads to the death of the tree. Even though not all trees die of the infection, once infected, trees can’t be cured.

The fungus has two reproductive phases in its life cycle. It was previously believed that the multiplication of H. fraxineus was only possible through  sexual reproduction, but Exeter scientists found that asexual spores of the fungus are infectious and can germinate on leaves or infected seedlings via soil. It was believed that the asexual spores functioned as the male in the sexual reproduction, and so they could not germinate alone. This asexual reproduction will allow it to spread more quickly.

Knowing more about the life cycle of this pathogen is important for improving the disease control and for making people conscious that when moving the soil from areas with infected trees, they could be transferring  and so spreading the fungus as well.

ash-dieback

1. Spores arrive in the environment of a susceptible ash tree (e.g. via wind). 2. Spores germinate on leaves and on ash seed cases. 3. Leaves become infected, with the fungus growing over the surface and forming internal structures, which may be fruiting bodies, amplifying the inoculum. 4. Infected leaves are abscised along with the ripe seeds; the fungus continues to propagate on leaf litter, seed cases and other debris, as well as in the soil itself (5). 6. From the soil, mycelium/germinated spores can invade the roots of mature trees and seedlings. 7. Sporulation, including sexual sporulation if strains of opposite mating types are present, may then occur in the leaf litter, releasing inoculum to re-infect the original host tree and others nearby (8).

Original journal article and source of photo: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep34638

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161027122824.htm

Author: Jacque Gleason
Date Posted: 11-08-2016



Fungi from the space station!

Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic pathogen, which can cause disease in immunocompromised humans. Recently, a group of researchers analyzed strains that were isolated from the international space station. Would these strains be any different because they are exposed to the unique conditions of space? To find out, a number of test were carried out with two isolates from space, and two clinical isolates previously identified.

These tests included growth assays, chemical stressors, genome analysis, secondary metabolite analysis, and in vivo virulence assays.  The space isolates showed approximately the same level of SNPs in their genome, suggesting they were not evolving more rapidly nor accumulating more mutations.  Isolates performed similarly in growth assay and under chemical stresses. However, there were differences in secondary metabolite production between space and earth isolates. Perhaps most interesting was that both space isolates were more virulent in zebra-fish assays compared to the two clinical isolates. However, authors are quick to point out that there is a large variation in virulence found between earth isolates, meaning we can’t draw a conclusion that all space isolates are more virulent than earth isolates.

Ultimately, research into biology in space will be important as we hope to send astronauts up for longer amounts of time. This study is an important look at fungi in space, and provides interesting ideas for further study. This was also the first report of fumigatus in space, which is important for implications on human health on the space station.

Figure one from the paper. (a) shows the wall area from which IF1SW-F4 was isolated, (b) this graph shows the frequency distribution of total SNPs found in all the previously sequenced isolated (c) phylogenetic tree representing all 95 sequenced isolated with colors corresponding to where they were isolated from. Isolated highlighted in yellow were the ones used in the study.

Figure one from the paper. (a) shows the wall area from which IF1SW-F4 was isolated (b) This graph shows the frequency distribution of total SNPs found in all the previously sequenced isolated (c) Phylogenetic tree representing all 95 sequenced isolated with colors corresponding to where they were isolated from. Isolated highlighted in yellow were the ones used in the study.

Author: Mikaela Breunig
Date Posted: 11-08-2016



Candida auris, a multi-resistant yeast, has been confirmed in the US

NPR posted a piece on the emergence of a ‘new’ pathogenic yeast, Candida auris, appearing in United States hospitals. This yeast is harder to control than other Candida spp., mainly because it already has resistance to multiple anti-fungal medicines.

The yeast was first discovered in Japan in 2009 and has since been detected in ten other counties around the globe. C. auris appears opportunistic, infecting already hospitalized people with damaged immune systems. Luckily, it has only been positively identified 13 times and all of the cases responded to an anti-fungal compound. Four infected people did die, however the CDC was not able to determine if the yeast caused their deaths or if their underlying illnesses had progressed to that point.

The NPR article also states that C. auris is only distinguishable from other yeasts, such as less problematic Candida spp. or Saccharomyces cerevisiae, by molecular techniques. This can be problematic because delays in identification of a drug resistant yeast could cause fatalities or larger outbreaks in a hospital. The CDC is trying to spread awareness of this new infectious agent and has set up a fact sheet on their website

candida-auris-1-b3ba47262a2a854d29aea8381b8628da703807aa-s700-c85

A culture of Candida auris from the CDC fact sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/candida-auris-qanda.html

 

 

Link to NPR article: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/11/04/500671640/first-cases-of-new-infectious-fungus-reported-in-u-s

More information from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/candida-auris.html

Author: Suzanne Slack
Date Posted: 11-07-2016



Mycologists Visit Ellison’s Brewery in East Lansing

natalie_jason

Teachers, students and friends tour East Lansing’s local fermentation facility

class

Advanced mycology

nico_giorgio

From one mycology lab to another.

Mycologist Daniel Ojwang and master brewer Aaron Hanson will trial the incorporation of spent brewery grains into mushroom cultivation.

Mycologist Daniel Ojwang and master brewer Aaron Hanson trial the use of spent brewery grains for mushroom cultivation.

Author: Gregory Bonito
Date Posted: 11-01-2016



Mycorrhizal interactions alter plant carbon dioxide fertilization effect

Fig. 2. Overall effects of CO2 on plant biomass. (A to C) Effects on (A) total, (B) aboveground, and (C) belowground biomass for two types of mycorrhizal plants species (AM and ECM) in N-limited experiments (low N) or experiments that are unlikely N-limited (high N). Overall means and 95% confidence intervals are given; we interpret CO2 effects when the zero line is not crossed.

Fig. 2. Overall effects of CO2 on plant biomass. (A to C) Effects on (A) total, (B) aboveground, and (C) belowground biomass for two types of mycorrhizal plants species (AM and ECM) in N-limited experiments (low N) or experiments that are unlikely N-limited (high N). Overall means and 95% confidence intervals are given; we interpret CO2 effects when the zero line is not crossed.

A recent (July 2016) Science Research Report was highlighted in the Imperial College London News discussing the effects of mycorrhizal associations within elevated CO2 environments upon plant biomass. Climate change has increased CO2 levels and currently plants are utilizing the elevated CO2 decreasing the effects creating a “CO2 fertilization effect”, however when looking to future impacts upon plants by climate change two hypotheses are considered: 1) plant biomass will be enhanced by the “CO2 fertilization effect”, continuing to slightly decrease global impacts of climate change, 2) environmental nitrogen limitations will decrease the CO2 fertilization effect, reducing plant CO2 uptake. This study complied elevated carbon experiments from around the world to dissect these hypotheses in the light of mycorrhizal interactions and discovered a primary interaction between nitrogen level and mycorrhizal association in correlation with plant biomass. Overall, plants in elevated CO2 experiments with ectomycorrhizal fungi (ECM) had larger biomass increases with high or low nitrogen levels, than plants with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) with low nitrogen treatments. Thus, the CO2 fertilization effect from climate change may only pertain to plants with ECM associations in nitrogen limited areas, and these results should be considered when modeling effects of climate change upon global vegetation.

 

Dunning H. 2016. Plants’ ability to slow climate change depends on their fungi. Imperial College London. Accessed October, 19, 2016. http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_30-6-2016-12-25-24

 

Terrer, C., Vicca, S., Hungate, B. A., Phillips, R. P., Prentice, C. 2016. Mycorrhizal association as primary control of the CO2 fertilization effect. Science. 353: 72-73.

Author: Amy Baetsen-Young
Date Posted: 11-01-2016



Current Fungal Biology – Invasive fungi destroys native trees in Hawaii

Figure 1. Sites on Hawai'i main island with incidence of rapid ōhi'a death.

Figure 1. Sites on Hawai’i main island with incidence of rapid ōhi’a death.

Zebra mussels, asian carp, purple loostrife, spotted knapweed. These are some of the organisms that come to mind when we think of the term ‘invasive species.’ In Hawaii, its time to add the name Ceratocystis fimbriata to that list. C. fimbriata is the cause of rapid ōhi’a death (ROD) that is spreading quickly through Hawaii’s big island. Ōhi’a is Hawaii’s only tree species that colonizes lava flows and are a home to a number of rare species. Currently thought to be spread through the wind via wood dust created by ambrosia beetles in search of food, C. fimbriata has invaded close to 20,000 hectares of Hawaii’s forest. No one is quite sure how this particular strain got there in the first place, though a related Ceratocystis species affects Hawaiian pineapples, but it is clear that if it is not contained soon there could be a devastating effect on Hawaii’s ecosystem, including potential ill-effects on the island’s freshwater supply.

Read more here.

Literature cited

Vesper I (2016) Alien fungus blights Hawaii’s native trees. Science (80- ) 354: 273

Author: Patrick Abeli
Date Posted: 10-28-2016



Hallucinogenic Lichen in the Amazon

Fig.1

Figure 1: Thallus of D. huaorani. A: upper side; B: detail of the upper side; C: underside; D: detail of the underside.

Many fungal groups famously produce psychoactive compounds. Most of these are prominent because they are dangerous to humans, such as are the ascomycete family Clavicipitaceae and several basidiomycete genera including Amanita, Leptiota, and Cortinarius. Many mushrooms are also notable for producing psychedelic compounds, however hallucinogenic lichens are very rare. Harvard researchers E. Wade Davis and James A. Yost were conducting ethnobotanical studies in eastern Ecuador in 1981 when they were informed about such a rare lichen, locally referred to as ‘nɇnɇndape’ that is regarded as taboo because of its psychoactive properties (Davis and Yost 1983). With the help of the endemic indigenous people, the Haorani, they managed to obtain a specimen which is housed at Harvard today. This singular collection remains the only known specimen from this species today (Schmull et al. 2014).

Fig 2

Figure 2: A: Cross section of D. huaorani; B: hymenophore; C: cyanobacterial photobiont; D: cyanobactera with heterocyst.

A Lichenologist from the Smithsonian suggested that the species belonged in the genus Dictyonema because its mycobiont is a basidiomycete, but it was never formally described (Schmull et al. 2014). In 2014 a team of researchers headed by Michaela Scmull at Harvard re-examined the specimen to conclusively determine the species’ phylogenetic placement and confirm the presence of psychotropic substances in the thallus.

They conducted morphological, chemical and molecular analyses on the specimen housed at Harvard University, and formerly assigned the name Dictyonema huaorani to the specimen, acknowledging the significant role the local native group had in its discovery. Morphological examination and phylogenetic analysis including sequence data from three loci (ITS, nuLSU, and RPB2) indicates that the species belongs in the paraphyletic genus Dictyonema.  Chemical exploration (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry) was suggestive of the presence of the hallucinogenic compound psilocybin, however, the researchers could not definitively confirm this because of the small size of the reverence collection.

This exciting study exemplifies the importance of well-maintained herbaria and suggests there are many exciting mycological species that are yet to be discovered from the remaining undisturbed ecosystems around the world.

 

Sources:

Davis, E.W., and J.A. Yost. 1983. Novel hallucinogens from eastern Ecuador. Botanical Museum Leaflets, Harvard University 29(3):291-295.

Ketler, A. 2016. A new species of psychedelic lichen found to contain psilocybin and DMT. Collective Evolution. http://www.collective-evolution.com/2016/10/14/new-species-of-psychedelic-lichen-contains-psilocybin-dmt/. Accessed October 21, 2016.

Schmull, M., M. Dal-Forno, R. Lücking, S. Cao, J. Clardy, and J.D. Lawrey. 2014. Dictyonema huaorani (Agaricales: Hygrophoraceae), a new lichenized basidiomucete from Amazonian Ecuador with presumed hallucinogenic properties. The Bryologist 117(4):386-394. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1639/0007-2745-117.4.386.

Author: Rachel Osborn
Date Posted: 10-26-2016



Current Fungal Biology – Update: A light at the end of the (bat) cave?

little_brown_bat_with_white_nose_syndrome_greeley_mine_cropped

Figure 1. A little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) affected by white-nose syndrome.

We recently reported on the growing issue of White-nose Syndrome (WNS) in bats caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans. WNS has been shown to affect the hibernation cycles of many bat species including the little bronw bat (Figure 1) and in many cases, leads to impairment or death. Currently, no full blown cure has been reported; though today we would like to introduce you to some of the control methods that have shown some promise in the fight against this devastating disease. In his blog on Nature.org, Matt Miller reported on a group from Georgia State University lead by Sydney Crow, Jr and their efforts to control WNS using volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by the bacterium Rhodococcus rhodochrous which they have demonstrated can be used to control the growth of the causal agent of WNS (Cornelison et al. 2013). Using these VOCs on bats placed in a treatment chamber, they were able to arrest the growth to such an extent that as many as 75 of these bats were able to be released back into the wild.

Why can’t we just spray caves with fungicides and kill all the WNS causing fungi; then the bats will all be safe, right? Well, that is an enticing idea! However, many fungicides are broad-spectrum and non-discriminating as to which fungi they really destroy, so there is a major threat to destroying natural biodiversity and the cave ecosystem if we were to use this method. Other natural control methods that have shown promise include the use of cold-pressed, terpeneless Valencia orange oil in the control of P. gymnoascus in vitro while causing no damage to other common fungi or bacteria (Boire et al. 2016). Though the researchers cautiously suggest that, in both of these studies, more research is necessary to determine the effect that employing any of these control measures will have on local flora and fauna before any large-scale control efforts can take place, both studies present promising evidence that we may find a way to stop this pathogen before it wipes out our bats entirely.

Literature Cited

Boire N, Zhang S, Khuvis J, Lee R, Rivers J, Crandall P, Keel MK, Parrish N (2016) Potent Inhibition of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the Causative Agent of White-Nose Syndrome in Bats, by Cold-Pressed, Terpeneless, Valencia Orange Oil. PLoS One 11: 1–10

Cornelison, Christopher T., Kyle T. Gabriel, Courtney K. Barlament, and Sidney A. Crow Jr. 2013. Inhibition of Pseudogymnoascus destructans  growth from conidia and mycelial extension by bacterially produced volatile organic compounds. Mycopathologia. 177(1-2):1-10.

Author: Patrick Abeli
Date Posted: 10-25-2016



Honey Can Potentially Destroy Fusarium Biofilms

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Scientists have been studying different approaches in order to fight pathogens in humans, animals and plants. One such pathogen is the fungi Fusarium, which can cause blindness and even death in humans as well as being a very destructive pathogen on plants and animals. Throughout history honey has been known to be a wound-healing agent. Applying honey to a wound helps in a quicker healing process.

Researchers at the University of Manchester discovered a new approach using honey to fight Fusarium biofilms. Dr. Riina Rautemaa-Richardson and her Master’s student Zain Habib Alhindi have been studying a medicinal type of honey known as Surgihoney that has shown potential effects against fungal biofilms. Surgihoney is a biologically engineered honey that produces hydrogen peroxide. It also contains vitamins and minerals, which helps create new tissue structures in wound sites. Zain tested different concentrations of Surgihoney against Fusarium. The results were quite interesting since even small concentrations of honey eliminated Fusarium biofilms in a matter of days. Since microbial resistance against to some antibiotics is growing, this study can bring new approaches and alternative ways to manage fungi infections. There are not many scientists that have studied honey against pathogenic fungi.  This research can open up interest to study honey and fungi interactions.

 

References:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160205112639.htm

http://www.advancedtissue.com/scientists-use-super-honey-to-fight-fungal-infections/

Author: Saltanat Mambetova
Date Posted: 10-25-2016



Current Fungal Biology – dsRNA as a new class of fungicide?

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-3-16-23-pm

Figure 1. (A) The dsRNA (CYP-dsRNA) increases resistance of detached Barley leaves over the controls (TE, GFP-dsRNA) and (B) reduces fungal growth, measured by the level of fungal DNA, as well as (C) the activity of three ergosterol producing genes (from Koch et al. 2016).

In order to feed the growing population in the years to come, a number of challenges for plant production will have to be overcome. One persistent challenge that has been approached from a number of avenues over the last 100 or so years may have just found new life: protection of plants from fungal diseases. Currently, the most popular strategies for protecting plants from fungal disease is the use of sometimes intense fungicide spray regimes where plants may be sprayed upwards of once or twice per week throughout the growing season. The use of fungicides on food products goes back to at least the mid 18th-century when Mathieu Tillet discovered that bunt of wheat could be controlled with application of lime and salt (Tillet, 1755) and today the world fungicide market tops $7.5 billion (Morton and Staub 2005). However, there is a push in the collective consciousness for more safe and sustainable methods of plant protection; considering the growth of the organic movement.

In a recent publication in the journal Molecular Plant Pathology, Dean et al. (2012) surveyed the contributors to MPP on the top ten plant fungal pathogens based on scientific and economic importance. Two of the top results were species of Fusarium which are known to contaminate grains and to produce deadly mycotoxins. Commonly controlled with azole fungicides, a new study by Koch et al. (2016) shows that the application of specially designed double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) that target some of the same genes as the azole fungicides are an effective method of systemic pathogen control in barley. These dsRNAs utilize aspects of both the plant vascular system and the fungal protein machinery to inactivate genes necessary for the production of ergosterols, which are necessary for growth in Fusarium graminearum. These findings add an exciting new tool to the toolbelt of both growers and plant pathologists for the continued protection of plants and sustainable growth of food across the globe.

 

 

Literature Cited:

Koch A, Biedenkopf D, Furch A, Weber L, Rossbach O, Abdellatef E, et al. (2016) An RNAi- Based Control of Fusarium graminearum Infections Through Spraying of Long dsRNAs Involves a Plant Passage and Is Controlled by the Fungal Silencing Machinery. PLoS Pathog 12(10): e1005901. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1005901

Morton, V. and Staub, T. (2008) A Short History of Fungicides. Online, APSnet Features. doi: 10.1094/APSnetFeature-2008-0308.

Tillet, M. (1755) Dissertation on the cause of the corruption and smutting of the kernels of wheat in the head, and on the means of preventing these untoward circumstances. Bordeaux. 150 pp. English translation by H.B. Humphrey. 1937. Phytopath. Classics 5:1-191.

Author: Patrick Abeli
Date Posted: 10-19-2016



Pseudogymnoascus destructans is taking a toll on native Michigan bat species

Michigan Radio(local NPR) had a piece on air last week about the decline in bat populations due to a particularly nasty fungus and wind turbines entitled “Michigan bat population shrinks as fungus and wind turbines take a toll” (We’ll just address the fungus).

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, more than a million bats have fallen victim to the deadly fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. P. destructans is the causal agent of white-nose syndrome in bats. While bats hibernate during the winter, the fungus will grow on their noses, causing them severe stress and ultimately depleting their fat reserves leading to death.

20161011_bat_usfishandwildlifeservices
Figure 1: Bat suffering from white-nose syndrome. U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE HEADQUARTERS / FLICKR / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The article “Fungus, wind turbines, habitat loss threaten Mich. bats” printed in the Detroit News was the basis of their on air report. The reporter interviewed Dr. Allen Kurta from Eastern Michigan University about bat decline in Michigan. He stated that P. destructans is “probably the biggest threat [to bats].

P. destructans was first found in New York in 2007, and spread to Northern Michigan in 2014. According to the article, it has now spread to 11 counties in Michigan, and causes disease on 5 native species of bats. The species being affected the most are Northern long-eared bats, and it is speculated that the fungus will completely wipe them out in the next decade.

me_mi_bats_101016

Figure 2: Map of Michigan counties were P. destructans has been identified.

 

Link to “Fungus, wind turbines, habitat loss threaten Mich. bats” http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/environment/2016/10/09/michigan-bats-threatened/91840912/

Link to Michigan Radio/NPR article: http://michiganradio.org/post/michigan-bat-population-shrinks-fungus-and-wind-turbines-take-toll#stream

 

Author: Suzanne Slack
Date Posted: 10-19-2016



Fungi as Banana Pathogens

Symptoms of P. fijiensis, the causal agent of Black Sigatoka. From: http://www.apsnet.org/publications/apsnetfeatures/Article%20Images/Sigatoka06.jpg

Symptoms of P. fijiensis, the causal agent of Black Sigatoka. From:  Image from APSnet.

Many of us like to consume bananas on a daily basis as dessert, flavoring or a healthy snack. However, over the last century bananas have had many disease issues stemming from fungal infections, which have altered the variety of bananas we consume in grocery stores. Recently Science Alert highlighted that the banana industry could be completely devastated by fungal diseases in less than 10 years from the lack of disease resistance in the clonal banana population. This concern spurred genome sequencing of Pseudocercospora fijiensis the causal agent for Black Sigatoka (an emerging fungal disease) to assist in developing productive fungicide management programs and breeding programs. Researchers found a secreted protein within the P. fijiensis genome, an effector homologus to Cladosporium fulvum Avr4, which enabled a differential response between resistant and susceptible banana varieties, and can be used as a bioassay to screen bananas for resistance in the future. Also, this study facilitated genetic marker development to dissect the pathogen population for fungicide resistance, and found nearly 100% of isolates from fungicide managed fields contained the makers for strobilurin resistance, indicating rapid fungal evolution and the need for resistant banana varieties. This research highlights the utilization of fungal genomics to generate potential for sustainable food production.

Arango Isaza RE, Diaz-Trujillo C, Dhillon B, Aerts A, Carlier J, Crane CF, et al. (2016) Combating a Global Threat to a Clonal Crop: Banana Black Sigatoka Pathogen Pseudocercospora fijiensis (Synonym Mycosphaerella fijiensis) Genomes Reveal Clues for Disease Control. PLoS Genet 12(8): e1005876. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005876

Macdonald F. 2016. Fungal disease could wipe out bananas in 5 to 10 years. Science Alert. http://www.sciencealert.com/fungal-disease-could-wipe-bananas-out-in-5-to-10-years-say-scientists Accessed October 12, 2016.

Author: Amy Baetsen-Young
Date Posted: 10-17-2016



3-year old dies of Amanita poisoning in Canada

Tragically, a three-year-old boy from Victoria, Canada died this Wednesday after eating a poisonous mushroom, the Amanita phalloides. This mushroom kills more people than any other mushroom worldwide, but this is the first reported death in British Colombia. The toxin, called amatoxin, is not destroyed by cooking and one cap can be enough to kill an adult.

Although phalloides doesn’t resemble any edible mushrooms native to B.C., officials are worried about the rise in mushroom poisoning recently. These mushrooms can look similar to paddy straw mushrooms from Asian. Officials also suggest that Amanita phalloides is on the rise in B.C., and people just aren’t used to seeing it or hearing about it. Just twenty years ago, it hadn’t even been spotted in the area. They believe it was first introduced into the area from imported European Oak that was planted in city streets. Ongoing research may also suggest that the mushroom may be spreading from the European Oak to Canada’s native Garry Oak. This would provide even more habitat for the mushroom and increase its prevalence.

The British Colombia Centre for Disease Control has seen an increase in calls to their Poison Information Centre from mushroom foragers. In data released this summer showed double the amount of calls in July compared to the previous year. Weather conditions including unseasonable wet weather, along with increases in Amanita phalloides could be the reason they saw calls double. Mycologist and health officials alike are working to increase education in order to prevent more poisonings.

amanita-phalloides-death-cap-cluster

Picture from CBC article, Amanita phalloides in British Colombia

Johnson, L. (2016, October 12). 3-year-old Victoria boy dies from poisonous ‘death cap’ mushroom – British Columbia – CBC News. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/death-cap-mushroom-victoria-boy-poisoned-1.3802245

Johnson, L. (2016, October 12). Deadliest mushroom in world on the rise in B.C. – British Columbia – CBC News. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/deadliest-mushroom-in-world-on-the-rise-in-b-c-1.3800164

Author: Mikaela Breunig
Date Posted: 10-14-2016



Surprising fungal diversity in Arctic driftwood

Fig. 1. Driftwood sampling sites across the Arctic. Wood affected by fungi was collected on Iceland (orange), East Greenland (red), and in the Siberian Lena Delta (blue).

Fig. 1. Driftwood sampling sites across the Arctic. Wood affected by fungi was collected on Iceland (orange), East Greenland (red), and in the Siberian Lena Delta (blue).

As a child, I would play with driftwood on the shores of Lake Superior building my own kingdoms and domains, however I did not realize the potential worlds existing within each of those logs I tossed around like toys. This summer a study was published explaining the rich diversity of fungi found within Arctic driftwood (Blanchette et al., 2016). Researchers sampled driftwood in Iceland, East Greenland and Siberia, and found through isolations and sequencing of the ITS region a 103 different taxa from 80 sampled logs. The majority of fungi were dominated by Ascomycota (150 isolates), with a smaller subset of Basidiomycota (16 isolates) and Zygomycota (11 isolates), but most of these species were not shared between sampling sites. Cadophora was the most common genus, and was reported within all sites and has been commonly found in polar regions. As the majority of all Arctic driftwood originates from Siberia, they reported differences appears to stem from the local fungal population at each site. Overall, the authors concluded more research is warranted as unique fungi persist in the Arctic ecosystem, which will be rapidly changing within the century.

Blanchette, R.A., Held, B.W., Hellmann, L., Millman, L., Büntgen, U. 2016. Arctic drifwood reveals unexpectedly rich fungal diversity. Fungal Ecology 23:58-65

Author: Amy Baetsen-Young
Date Posted: 10-12-2016



Citizen science and the evolution of wood rotting fungi

Heilmann-Clausen, J., Maruyama, P. K., Bruun, H. H., Dimitrov, D., Laessøe, T., Frøslev, T. G., and Dalsgaard, B. 2016. Citizen science data reveal ecological, historical and evolutionary factors shaping interactions between woody hosts and wood-inhabiting fungi. New Phytol.

Data from the Danish fungal atlas database, which was collected by citizen scientists, was used to examine the evolution of fungi on wood. Heilmann-Clausen et. al. examined citizen science data from Denmark in order to gather data to test a hypothesis about fungal host selectivity of wood dwelling fungi. After correcting for sampling bias, phylogenetic signal of host species was tested using Pagel’s lambda and one-way regression models were used to assess associations with fungal species richness. Strength of modularity was assessed in relation to host phylogeny. There was significant phylogenetic signal for host trait variables of maximum height (m) and wood density. Fuscreen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-12-08-pmngal species richness was positively influenced by wood pH. Modularity analysis suggested that fungal community structure differed between angiosperms and gymnosperms and that fungal orders rich in endophytes had the greatest selectivity for modules. For example, they linked the modularity of the ascomycete orders Helotiales (common on gymnosperms) and Diapthorales (common on angiosperms) to the divergence of fungi and plant species in the carboniferous period. They concluded that woody plants have phenotypic filters that select for certain fungi from a large species pool.

 

Author: Zach Noel
Date Posted: 10-03-2016



Fungus makes mosquitoes much more likely to become infected with malaria

Malaria is caused when female Anopheles mosquitoes are infected with the Plasmodium parasite and infect healthy humans. Mosquitoes pick up the parasite when they bite and feed on infected humans. For this study, Dimopoulos and his team isolated Penicillium chrysogenum fungus from the gut of field-caught Anopheles mosquitoes. They determined that its presence made the mosquitoes much more susceptible to being infected by the parasite that causes malaria. The fungus, they found, was compromising the immune system of the mosquitoes, allowing the malaria parasite to more easily infect them. Dimopoulos says research in the field is necessary to see if the fungi affect mosquitoes in the same way in nature as they do in the laboratory.

 

Source:

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2016, September 28). Fungus makes mosquitoes much more likely to become infected with malaria. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 3, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160928083359.htm
Journal reference:
  1. Yesseinia I. Angleró-Rodríguez, Benjamin J. Blumberg, Yuemei Dong, Simone L. Sandiford, Andrew Pike, April M. Clayton, George Dimopoulos. A natural Anopheles-associated Penicillium chrysogenum enhances mosquito susceptibility to Plasmodium infection.Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 34084 DOI: 10.1038/srep34084
Author: Gayathri Kotamraju
Date Posted: 10-03-2016



SPORE Picnic and Posters 2016

Linda Colon and SPORE Graduate Students

Linda Colon and SPORE students organized a successful event.

SPORE Picnic 2016

MSU SPORE Picnic 2016 

Author: Gregory Bonito
Date Posted: 09-30-2016



Fungi in the news: How fungi kill millions globally

A CNN article by Susie East aimed to spread awareness of four fatal fungi genera: Cryptococcus, Candida, Aspergillus, and Pneumocystis. According to the article and one source, approximately 1.5 million people a year are killed from infections by fungal organisms, with 90% stemming from the four genera listed above. The article also states that Aspergillus infections are often misdiagnosed and can be deadly in as little as 10 days. Although the estimation is huge, anywhere from 1-2 billion people suffer from fungal infections a year. Most of the time, these cases are mild and easily treated. However, when a person’s immune system is suppressed, like with HIV/AIDS, these infections become life-threatening quickly.
An interesting anecdote from the article in regards to prevention mentioned that some hospitals are not allowing flowers to be brought into wards. Though not mentioned in this particular article, Burkholderia cepacia (a bacterial pathogen, but it actually was in the news recently for its role in killing a couple with cystic fibrosis), is a pathogen on some plants and general soil inhabitant. So, maybe a good takeaway from this article is to not bring flowers to people with compromised immune systems.

160919162037-aspergillus-2-exlarge-169
Up close and personal with some Aspergillus from the slide show in the article.

Link to the article here:  http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/27/health/deadly-fungal-infections

 

Author: Suzanne Slack
Date Posted: 09-28-2016



“Basidiomycete yeasts in cortex of ascomycete macrolichens”

A new partner in lichen symbiosis was reported in the July issue of Science. This paper challenges the age old assumption that a lichen is made up of one ascomycete fungus and one photobiont partner. Here authors report they found a basidiomycete yeasts present in 52 different lichen genera on six continents. They discovered this association through transcriptome sequencing in order to study the cause of phenotypic variation in two lichens (Bryoria fremontii and B. tortuosa) that had no differences at a sequence level. In the B. tortuosa transcriptome they found reads that were annotated to a basidomycete yeast. Their molecular work fluorescent microscopy detected the basidiomycete cells were located in the peripheral cortex of the thallus. Read the whole paper below to find out more!

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6298/488

Spribille, T., Tuovinen, V., Resl, P., Vanderpool, D., Wolinski, H., Aime, M. C., . . . Mccutcheon, J. P. (2016). Basidiomycete yeasts in the cortex of ascomycete macrolichens. Science, 353(6298), 488-492. doi:10.1126/science.aaf8287

Figure 3 from the paper, (D) showing the presence of the yeast cells in B. tortuosa in green florescence and the yellow phenotype attributed to the yeast (C).

Figure 3 from the paper, (D) showing the presence of the yeast cells in B. tortuosa in green florescence and the yellow phenotype attributed to the yeast (C).

Author: Mikaela Breunig
Date Posted: 09-28-2016



“Basidiomycete yeasts in cortex of ascomycete macrolichens”

A new partner in lichen symbiosis was reported in the July issue of Science. This paper challenges the age old assumption that a lichen is made up of one ascomycete fungus and one photobiont partner. Here authors report they found a basidiomycete yeasts present in 52 different lichen genera on six continents. They discovered this association through transcriptome sequencing in order to study the cause of phenotypic variation in two lichens (Bryoria fremontii and B. tortuosa) that had no differences at a sequence level. In the B. tortuosa transcriptome they found reads that were annotated to a basidomycete yeast. Their molecular work fluorescent microscopy detected the basidiomycete cells were located in the peripheral cortex of the thallus. Read the whole paper below to find out more!

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6298/488

Spribille, T., Tuovinen, V., Resl, P., Vanderpool, D., Wolinski, H., Aime, M. C., . . . Mccutcheon, J. P. (2016). Basidiomycete yeasts in the cortex of ascomycete macrolichens. Science, 353(6298), 488-492. doi:10.1126/science.aaf8287
figure 3 from the paper, showing in D the presence of the yeast cells in B. tortuosa in green florescence and the yellow phenotype attributed to the yeast. in C.

Figure 3 from the paper, (D) showing the presence of the yeast cells in B. tortuosa in green florescence and the yellow phenotype attributed to the yeast (C).

Author: Mikaela Breunig
Date Posted: 09-28-2016



Fungal-bacterial interactions implicated in Crohn’s Disease

Figure 2 shows fungal and bacterial abundance in study participants

Fungi and Bacteria abundance in Study Participants (Fig 2)

An interesting new study showing a positive associate between Candida tropicalis consortia with Crohn’s disease.  Read more here. http://mbio.asm.org/content/7/5/e01250-16.abstract

 

Author: Gregory Bonito
Date Posted: 09-23-2016



Smith Foray 2016 – The mushrooms and mycologist were out

Graduate students checking out Helotiales fungi fruiting on wood

Graduate students assessing the habitat, growth and fruiting bodies of Helotiales.

Craterellus ignicolor fruiting bodies

The ectomycorrhizal Craterellus ignicolor fruiting on a mossy bank

Tim James lab and Rytas Vilgalys led the way

Tim James lab and Rytas Vilgalys led the way

Graduate students in the hall of mushrooms

Working through a days collecting of fungi

Smith Foray 2016 attendees

A gathering of mycologists in the Great Lakes region

Author: Gregory Bonito
Date Posted: 09-23-2016