International team of scientists complete fungal genomic sequences

Humans have a love-hate relationship with the aspergilli, a group of about 185 different species of fungus: several species are human athogens, while others are the basis for the production of human food and industrial enzymes. Now, an international team of scientists have determined and compared the genome sequences of three aspergilli Aspergillus fumigatus, a potentially deadly human pathogen, A. oryzae, used in the production of soy sauce and sake, and A. nidulans, a model genetic organism. Their findings, published in three papers in the December 22 issue of Nature, advance our understanding of the molecular basis of Aspergillus infection, provide insight into the forces driving genome evolution, and identify new genomic functional elements.

"The comparison of these organisms gives us a wealth of information about gene regulation and genome evolution that apply to the study of all eukaryotes, including humans," said James Galagan, associate director of Microbial Genome Analysis and Annotation at the Broad Institute. "We were most excited about being able to relate genome evolution to sexual reproduction, a very specific and important physiological difference between the three aspergilli." Unlike A. nidulans, which has a sexual cycle, A. oryzae and A. fumigatus were believed to be asexual, but the comparative analysis suggests that both species maintain the genetic wherewithal for sexual reproduction. If confirmed, this raises the potential for developing powerful genetic tools for both organisms, with far reaching implications for medicine (A. fumigatus) and industry (A. oryzae).

Broad Institute scientists and their colleagues determined the genome sequence Aspergillus nidulans and, led by Galagan, performed comparative analysis of the three aspergilli. The direct genome sequence comparison of three species of aspergilli is of particular interest to scientists, given the long evolutionary history of these species as well as their different e

Contact: Michelle Nhuch, Broad Institute
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

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