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Formidable fungal force counters biofuel plant pathogens
Date:5/3/2011

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.Fungi play significant ecological and economic roles. They can break down organic matter, cause devastating agricultural blights, enter into symbiotic relationships to protect and nourish plants, or offer a tasty repast. For industrial applications, fungi provide a source of enzymes to catalyze such processes as generating biofuels from plant biomass. One large fungal group with such enzymes are the rust plant pathogens which cannot survive on their own so they use crops as hosts, leading to reduced yields and potentially hindering efforts to grow biomass for fuel. Factors that could reduce the growth of plant biomass, thus reducing biofuel production, are a target for investigation of the Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI).

Published the week of May 2, 2011 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the work of an international team of researchers that included Fungal Genome Program head Igor Grigoriev, as well as several members from the DOE JGI, compared the genomes of two rust fungi to identify the characteristics by which these pathogens can invade their plant hosts and to develop methods of controlling the damage they can cause. The team led by co-first author Sebastien Duplessis of the French national agricultural research institute (INRA) worked on the poplar leaf rust fungus while a team led by co-first author Christina Cuomo of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Les Szabo from Agricultural Research Service USDA and University of Minnesota worked separately on the wheat and Barley stem rust fungus. The two-genome consortia joined their efforts to compare the genomic features of the two rust pathogens to reveal the role they play in infecting the host plant and acquiring nutrients.

Sequenced at the DOE JGI using the Sanger platform under the 2006 Community Sequencing Program, the 101-million base pair genome of Melampsora larici-populina, the fi
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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