Another delightful well written piece by Jennifer Frazer in her SciAm blog. She presents a solution to a unknown fungus that showed up as a blanket of orange spores in the water near the town of Kivalina, Alaska. “Mystery of Alaskan “Goo” Rust Solved at Last”. Jennifer writes that the rust spores are from:
If they had known that a hoard of Mycologists were descending on Alaska for our annual meeting! I guess the exact identification is still being determined by NOAA labs – hope they can PCR ITS up and figure it out (and maybe save a culture for deposition somewhere).
(Thanks to Blake Billmyre for passing along the story)
Spread of wheat rust Puccinia strain Ug99 and consequences on already strained food supplies is discussed in an Op-Ed piece covered in GeneticMaize.
Hyphoid logic points out that it is appropriate to discuss about the oomycete Phytophthora infestans on St. Patrick’s Day and mentions a NYT article “The fungus that conquered Europe” that is worth a look.
It is also worth thinking about another blight, well rust, that is spreading through the middle east and could threaten wheat crops worldwide. New Scientist has excellent coverage of Puccinia graminis strain Ug99 which is spreading faster than expected due to a cyclone that spread the rust spores into Iran two years earlier than expected.
Several more fungi are on the docket for sequencing at JGI through their community sequencing program. This includes
- The Dothideomycete leaf streak disease causing fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis
- Soybean rust Phakopsora pachyrhizi
- The Basidiomycete and jelly fungus Tremella mesenterica proposed by Joe Heitman for use as outgroup to the human pathogen Cryptococcus
- The plant pathogen Cochliobolus heterostrophus proposed by Gillian Turgeon which ironically was already sequenced at the now closed Syngenta Torrey Mesa Research Institute (i.e. this paper on NRPS which used the genome)
- The Sordariale Thielavia terrestris proposed by Novoenzymes presumably for potential in producing novel cellulases as part of biofuel production research.
- The Sordariale and Chestnut blight fungus Cryphonectria parasitica
- EST sequencing for Aspergillus terreus proposed by Scott Baker at PNNL
- Scott is also helping lead a projects to sequence Piromyces and Orpinomyces both early branching Neocallimastigomycota fungi that live in the rumen (which I am probably a little too excited about). Apparently the high A-T content is causing problems in the sequencing phase.
- Agaricus bisporus, sadly the only mushroom some people ever eat (canned and put on pizza or from canned soup), proposed by Mike Challen is also slated to be sequencing in 2008. Did Campell’s already sequence it anyways? We got to see them in their non-native habitat on a field trip in the fall (more pictures!).
- The Basidiomycete EM fungus Paxillus involutus proposed by Anders Tunlid will complement ongoing work in plant-fungal association work.
- Heterobasidion annosu, a basidiomycete fungal pathogen of conifers.
- Three Neurospora genomes proposed by our lab
- The oyster mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus
- The amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis that I’m working on with collaborators at Berkeley and the Broad Institute (which sequenced another strain)
- Trichoderma actrovirdi (which doesn’t appear to have any sequence in GenBank) is reportedly in production (bottom of the page).
This complements an ever growing list of fungal genome sequences which is probably topping 80+ now not including the several dozen strains of Saccharomyces that are being sequenced at Sanger Centre and a separately funded NIH project to be sequenced at WashU.
A while back, Jason blogged briefly on a New Scientists article about the rise of a new Puccinia graminis strain, Ug99, that is spreading through West African wheat fields at an enormous rates. It looks like this story is growing in the scientific conciousness, as Science is now running an article on the spread of this wheat pandemic.
The article has a nice bit of background regarding the rise of the disease. It seems that it is spreading so quickly for due to its relatively broad host range compared to other strains. While scientists have been working to derive resistant wheat varieties, Puccinia has successfully foiled their recent attempts by mutating to acheive resistance to the plant expressed Sr24.
To boot, this strain has been found in Yemen, allowing its spores to hitch a ride along the winds that blow north along the Indian Ocean, putting much of the global bread basket at risk (I imagine that the last thing the middle east needs right now is a wheat shortage). The last time a rust spread through this area, it caused 1 billion dollars in damage. Given the extensive host range of this variety, experts predict that damages will exceede at least three times this amount.
Fortunately, researchers in Ethiopian have derived two wheat strains that may be resistant to Ug99. However, it can take several years to get these wheat strains in the ground and, ultimately, no one is certain that Ug99 won’t cleverly find a way to adapt resistance. We should keep our ears to the rail on this one: it could be a big problem.
The New Scientist has an article about the spread of black stem rust caused by Puccinia graminis. We briefly mentioned the 1st release of a Puccinia genome in January. Some more links about the spread of the Ug99 virulent strain.
- USDA information
- USDA information on Barberry & Puccinia graminis where the sexual stage of the fungus occurs.
The FGI and the Broad Institute have released the 7X genome assembly of Puccinia graminis f. sp tritici in roughly 4500 contigs. This represents the first rust fungus to be sequenced and the second Urediniomycete that has been sequenced, Sporobolomyces roseus being the first. This rust fungus is “the causal agent of stem rust, has caused serious disease of small cereal grains (wheat, barley, oat, and rye) worldwide.”