Archive for March, 2012

San Francisco

March 19th, 2012

JGI Fungal Jamboree

March 19th, 2012

The annual JGI Fungal Jamboree will start on Monday 19th at the Marriott Hotel in Walnut Creek. During the workshop, attendees will:

  • provide an update on their JGI program’s development during the last year and future plans,
  • discuss several important questions, including: (1) How to address current bottlenecks for future scale-up (target selection, DNA samples, analysis, publications)? (2) How to reach new groups of users and coordinate with other large genomics initiatives (e.g., 1K Chinese Fungal Genomes)? (3) What products in addition to sequencing JGI should be working on for mycologists? (4) What informatics/analytical needs should be addressed?
  • discuss strategic partnerships.

I will report on our two fungal programs, i.e. the Mycorrhizal Genomics Initiative and the Metatranscriptomics of Forest Soils.

    Haeckel Medusae

    March 4th, 2012

    As Jennifer Frazer, I will never get enough of Haeckel’s art, which is so reminiscent of Emile Gallé‘s Art Nouveau artifacts — the centrality of natural form as a source for inspired design –.

    Painting: Haeckel Discomedusae: Desmonema Annasethe, Floscula Promethea and Chrysaora mediterranea. © Wikimedia Commons.

    Genome sequence of the insect pathogenic fungus Cordyceps militaris

    March 4th, 2012


    Species in the ascomycete fungal genus Cordyceps have been proposed to be the teleomorphs of Metarhizium species. The latter have been widely used as insect biocontrol agents. Cordyceps species are highly prized for use in traditional Chinese medicines, but the genes responsible for biosynthesis of bioactive components, insect pathogenicity and the control of sexuality and fruiting have not been determined.

    Chengshu Wang’s group from the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences report the genome sequence of the type species Cordyceps militaries in the last issue of Genome Biology. Phylogenomic analysis suggests that different species in the Cordyceps/Metarhizium genera have evolved into insect pathogens independently of each other, and that their similar large secretomes and gene family expansions are due to convergent evolution. However, relative to other fungi, including Metarhizium spp., many protein families are reduced in C. militaris, which suggests a more restricted ecology. Consistent with its long track record of safe usage as a medicine, the Cordyceps genome does not contain genes for known human mycotoxins. This study shows that C. militaris is sexually heterothallic but, very unusually, fruiting can occur without an opposite mating-type partner. Transcriptional profiling indicates that fruiting involves induction of the Zn2Cys6-type transcription factors and MAPK pathway; unlike other fungi, however, the PKA pathway is not activated.

    The data offer a better understanding of Cordyceps biology and will facilitate the exploitation of medicinal compounds produced by the fungus.

    Zheng et al. (2011) Genome Biology 12: R116

    Photo: Chinese Tussah silkmoth pupae colonized by C. militaris (© Zheng et al.)