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JGI decodes wood & toxic waste-degrading fungus genome

Walnut Creek, CA--The United States Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) announces today the publication of a high-quality draft genome sequence of the white rot fungus, Phanerochaete chrysosporium. These are the only known microbes capable of efficiently degrading the recalcitrant aromatic plant polymer lignin, one of the most abundant natural materials on earth. White rot fungi such as Phanerochaete chrysosporium play a pivotal role in the carbon cycle--the circulation of carbon from the atmosphere into organisms and back again. They also have demonstrated the ability to remediate explosive contaminants, pesticides and toxic waste with similar chemical structures to lignin. The sequence findings are summarized in the May 2nd on-line edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"Phanerochaete chrysosporium is the first basidiomycete fungus to be sequenced, providing a glimpse into the genetic diversity of fungi," says Dan Rokhsar, head of the JGI Computational Genomics Department. "It's the first of a trio of fungal genomes we'll be tackling that have their own unique constellation of degradative enzymes. The availability of these genomes will spur industrial and bioremediative uses for these organisms."

Basidiomycetes are represented by important agricultural species including the familiar edible white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, and such plant pathogens as smuts and rusts. They also comprise certain opportunistic human pathogens that can be problematic especially in immune-compromised individuals. The basidiomycetes are believed to have diverged from the ascomycetes, a classification that includes Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer's yeast) and Neurospora (bread mold), over 500 million years ago, and to be more than a billion years removed from plants and animals.

"Sequencing the white rot genome is the first step toward understanding a very complex chemical process," says Randy Berka, research fellow from Novozyme
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Contact: David Gilbert
gilbert21@llnl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
3-May-2004


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