“Week of the Fungi” on Small Things Considered

The excellent microbiology blog Small Things Considered is celebrating the beginning of mushroom collecting season with a weeks worth of fungal posts. So far, they have discussed identifying poisonous mushrooms AFTER cooking them using real-time PCR, how wood-rotting fungi might actually improve the sound of your favorite stringed instrument, and the toxins found in the some of the deadly species of Amanita. Tune in later this week for the last two installments.

Papers on our desk

A quick post of some recent comparative genomics papers on our desk that are worth a look.

  • Khaldi N, Wolfe KH (2008) Elusive Origins of the Extra Genes in Aspergillus oryzae. PLoS ONE 3(8): e3036. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003036. This was a cool but somewhat controversal finding presented at Fungal Genetics last year.
  • Casselton, LA. Fungal sex genes – searching for the ancestors. doi: 10.1002/bies.20782. A review of recent findings about the Zygomycete MAT locus.
  • Soanes DM, Alam I, Cornell M, Wong HM, Hedeler C, et al. (2008) Comparative Genome Analysis of Filamentous Fungi Reveals Gene Family Expansions Associated with Fungal Pathogenesis. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2300. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002300
  • Lee DW, Freitag M, Selker EU, Aramayo R (2008) A Cytosine Methyltransferase Homologue Is Essential for Sexual Development in Aspergillus nidulans. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2531. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002531

Bats beware of white nose

An outbreak of a fungal infection called “white-nose syndrome” is killing bats in the Northeastern US.  This New Scientist article mentions the outbreak briefly and an NPR story and recent Boston Globe story also gives it some coverage.  Sounds like we still don’t know much about the causal agent or how it is killing the bats at this time, but some researchers, including Elizabeth Buckles at Cornell University, Vishnu Chaturvedi at NY State Dept of Health, and Jon Reichard at Boston University are working on it.

This is of course old news if you read what Hyphoid Logic has been saying.

That there is a previously undescribed cold loving fungus sounds very interesting, there have been some recent discoveries of psychrophilic fungi like Cryptococcus laurentii and Rhodotorula himalayensis so it would be interesting to learn more when the researchers publish some of these results.

Some more links

Thanks Kathyrn B for reminder about this story.

Dermatophyte genome sequences

The first of several dermatophyte fungal genomes, Microsporum gypseum, has been released at the Broad’s Dermatophyte site.  Two Tricophyton species and another Microsporum genome should follow soon. These dermatophyte fungi are Onygenales (Ascomycota) fungi (like Coccidioides and Histoplasma), although their placement in the phylogenies shown in the whitepaper and related review paper is a bit ambiguous. I’m sure that can be improved with a few more gene sequences gleaned from the genomes.

The 23 Mb M. gypseum genome is a bit smaller than the sizes of C. immitis (28 Mb), H. capsulatum (32 Mb), or Paracoccidioides brasiliensis (29 Mb).  While no annotation is currently available for the M. gypseum genome, this genome will help in establishing what genes were ancestral in the Onygenales and comparing patterns of gene family gains and losses in fungi that specialize on animal hosts.

Some more comparison across different kinds of dermatophyte fungi that are very distantly related like dandruff causing fungus Malasezzia globosa (Basidiomycota) will be really interesting as well.

Thanks Joe H and FGI folks for passing along announcement and to the Broad/FGI folks for the work to make this sequence available.