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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MOLECULAR AND GENETIC MECHANISMS OF FUNGAL DISEASE RESISTANCE IN GRAIN CROPS

Location: Crop Production and Pest Control Research

Title: Fueling the future with fungal genomics

Authors
item Grigoriev, Igor -
item Cullen, Daniel -
item Hibbett, David -
item Goodwin, Stephen
item Jeffries, Thomas -
item Kuske, Cheryl -
item Magnuson, Jon -
item Spatafora, Joey -

Submitted to: Mycological Society Of Japan
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 27, 2011
Publication Date: July 25, 2011
Citation: Grigoriev, I.V., Cullen, D., Hibbett, D., Goodwin, S.B., Jeffries, T.W., Kuske, C., Magnuson, J., Spatafora, J. 2011. Fueling the future with fungal genomics. Mycological Society Of Japan. DOI: 10.1080/21501203.2011.584577.

Interpretive Summary: Rapidly growing human populations are escalating the demand for energy in our interdependent world. Limited fossil resources and negative ecological impacts of petroleum exploration, extraction and transport dictate the need to develop alternative energy sources. Cellulosic biofuels, the use of plant biomass to produce alcohols, has the potential to mitigate future energy problems and can be aided by the application of genomics. However, many fungi that are important to bioenergy and the environment still do not have sequenced genomes. To understand and utilize fungal adaptations for producing biofuels and chemicals, the genomic blueprint of these organisms must be decoded. To address this problem, the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) has launched a Fungal Genomics Program to scale up sequencing and analysis of fungal genomes. Its key project, the Genomic Encyclopedia of Fungi, focuses on three areas of research connected to bioenergy: Plant Feedstock Health, encompassing symbiosis, plant pathogenicity, and biocontrol; Biorefinery, analyzing plant cell wall degradation, sugar fermentation, and industrial organisms; and Fungal Diversity. This project so far has provided genomes of fungi that are pathogens of bioenergy crops, that interact with the roots of bioenergy crops to increase their growth, and that produce numerous enzymes that can be harnessed for improved industrial processes. This information will be useful to agronomists and plant pathologists to design sustainable practices for production of bioenergy feedstocks and by chemical engineers for improved efficiency of fermentation and chemical synthesis.

Technical Abstract: Rapidly growing human populations are escalating the demand for energy in our interdependent world. Limited fossil resources and negative ecological impacts of petroleum exploitation dictate the need to explore alternative energy sources. Cellulosic biofuels, the use of plant biomass to produce alcohols, has the potential to mitigate future energy problems and can be aided by the application of genomics. However, many fungi that are important to bioenergy and the environment still do not have sequenced genomes. To understand and adopt fungal adaptations for producing biofuels and chemicals, the genomic blueprint of these organisms must be decoded. The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) has launched a Fungal Genomics Program to scale up sequencing and analysis of fungal genomes. Its key project, the Genomic Encyclopedia of Fungi, focuses on three areas of research connected to bioenergy: Plant Feedstock Health, encompassing symbiosis, plant pathogenicity, and biocontrol; Biorefinery, analyzing lignocellulose degradation, sugar fermentation, and industrial organisms; and Fungal Diversity. Sustainable production of feedstock plants such as switchgrass or poplar depends on plant interactions with fungal symbionts and pathogens. Converting biomass into biofuel requires a detailed inventory of enzymes and processes in filamentious fungi for decaying plant material and in yeasts that ferment sugars to alcohol. Developing robust industrial processes and their optimization requires organisms and enzymes that are tolerant to a range of temperatures, physical and chemical conditions, with lower maintenance and higher yield of desired product. These could come from genomic analyses of a broader sampling of the phylogenetic and ecological diversity of the fungi.

Last Modified: 7/31/2014
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