A paper in Current Genetics describes the discovery of Repeat Induced Polymorphism (RIP) in two Euriotiales fungi. RIP has been extensively studied in Neurospora crassa and has been identified in other Sordariomycete fungi Magnaporthe, Fusiarium. This is not the first Aspergillus species to have RIP described as it was demonstrated in the biotech workhorse Aspergillus oryzae. However, I think this study is the first to describe RIP in a putatively asexual fungus. The evidence for RIP is only found in transposon sequences in the Aspergillus and Penicillium. A really interesting aspect of this discovery is RIP is thought to only occur during sexual stage, but a sexual state has never been observed for these fungi. Continue reading RIPing in an asexual fungus
A review in Plant Cell from Darren Soanes and colleagues summarizes some of the major findings about evolution of phytopathogenic fungi gleaned from genome sequencing highlighting 12 fungi and 2 oomycetes. By mapping evolution of genes identified as virulence factors as well as genes that appear to have similar patterns of diversification, we can hope to derive some principals about how phytopathogenic fungi have evolved from saprophyte ancestors.
They infer from phylogenies we’ve published (Fitzpatrick et al, James et al) that plant pathogenic capabilities have arisen at least 5 times in the fungi and at least 7 times in the eukaryotes. In addition they use data on gene duplication and loss in the ascomycete fungi (Wapinski et al) to infer there large numbers of losses and gains of genes have occurred in fungal lineages.
Careful eating those old noodles left in the fridge, lots of fungi probably have made a home in the starch rich environment. But can food be inoculated with some inherent antifungal properties to help it last longer. A recent paper in the Intl Journal of Food Microbiology “Fungistatic activity of flaxseed in potato dextrose agar and a fresh noodle system.” describes work to test whether flaxseed can stop fungi from growing as a potential food preservation agent. Strains of Penicillium chrysogenum, Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium graminearum, and other Penicillium sp isolated from moldy noodles were used in a test assay for fungistatic activity of flaxseed. Flaxseed has a whole host of health benefits that have lead to is use in many foods, cereals, and baked goods. The authors test to see what type of antifungal properties flaxseed has as well to test if it can provide a role in food preservation and be edible (or even healthy). Some other edible antifungals include spices like cinnamon, cloves, and mustard. These authors have also investigated the stability of the antifungal properties of flaxseed in another paper.
The genome of the wheat and cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum was published in Science this week in an article entitled “The Fusarium graminearum Genome Reveals a Link Between Localized Polymorphism and Pathogen Specializationtion”. The project was a collaboration of many different Fusarium research groups. The genome sequencing was spearheaded by the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT and is part of a larger project to sequence several different species of Fusarium. The group sequenced a second strain in order to identify polymorphisms.
Some of the key findings
- The presence of Repeat Induced point-mutation (RIP) has likely limited the amount of repetitive and duplicated sequences in the genome
- Most of the genes unique to F. graminearum (and thus not present in 4 other Fusarium spp genomes) are found in the telomeres
- Between the sequenced strains SNP density ranged from 0 to 17.5 polymorphisms per kb.
- Some of the genes expressed uniquely during plant infection (408 total) include known virulence factors and many plant cell-wall degrading enzymes.
- The genes showing some of the highest SNP diversity tended to be unique to Fusarium and often unique to F. graminearum
- Coccidioides has 3 strains already plus the outgroup Uncinocarpus and conceivable one could include Histoplasma in there. This resources will grow to 14 strains (which comprise two species) of Coccidioides contributed by FGI and one from TIGR.
- Aspergillus currently has 8 species sequenced with several in pipeline at Broad and TIGR.
- Fusarium group has 3 species including recently released F. oxysporium.
- The Candida clade also have several different already sequenced genomes and of course there is the already well studied (and well utilized genome resources I’ll add) for the Saccharomyces clade.
- There are 4 genomes (well 5 but JEC21 and B-3501 are nearly identical) of Cryptococcus.
All in all a very exciting time for comparative genomics and I’m particularly intrigued to see how people will begin to use the resources.
This work to consolidate the clusters of genomes will, I hope, be very powerful. However, I still feel we are not doing a good job translating and centralizing information from different related species into a more centralized resource. Lots of money is spent on sequencing but I don’t know that we have realized the dream of having the comparative techniques illuminate the new genomes to the point that we are learning huge new things.
It seems to me, initially there is the lure of gathering low-hanging fruit from a genome analysis (which drives the first genome(s) paper), but not always the financial support of the longer term needs of the community to feed the experimental and functional work back into the genome annotation and interpretation.Â The cycle works really well for Saccharomyces cerevisiae because the curators who work with the community to insure information is deposited and that literature is gleaned to link genomic and functional information. But this is expensive in terms of funding many curators for many different projects.
It seems as we add more genomes there isn’t a very centralized effort for this type of curatorial information and so we lack the gems of high-quality annotation that is only seen in a few “model” systems.Â At some point a better meta-database that builds bridges between resource and literature rich “model system” communities may help, but maybe something new will have to be created? I like thinking about this as a user-driven content via a wiki which also dynamic (and versioned!) content from automated intelligent systems to map the straight-forward things.Â Tools like SCI-PHY already exist that can do this and generate robust orthology groups (or Books as the PhyloFact database organizes them) for futher analysis. The SGD wiki for yeast is a start at this, but is mostly an import of SGD data into a mediawiki framework – I wonder how this can be built upon in a more explictly comparative environment.