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How scavenging fungi became a plant's best friend
Date:11/25/2013

Glomeromycota is an ancient lineage of fungi that has a symbiotic relationship with roots that goes back nearly 420 million years to the earliest plants. More than two thirds of the world's plants depend on this soil-dwelling symbiotic fungus to survive, including critical agricultural crops such as wheat, cassava, and rice. The analysis of the Rhizophagus irregularis genome has revealed that this asexual fungus doesn't shuffle its genes the way researchers expected. Moreover, rather than having lost much of its metabolic genes, as observed in many mutualistic organisms, it has expanded its range of cell-to-cell communication genes and phosphorus-capturing genes.

A team led by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and including researchers from the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) reported the complete genome of R. irregularis (formerly Glomus intraradices) in a paper published online November 25 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The fungus is a member of the Glomeromycota family and frequently colonizes many plants important to agriculture and forestry. Glomeromycota, also called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), play a vital role in how phosphorus and carbon cycles through the atmosphere and land-based ecosystems, but exactly how it does this vital job is poorly understood.

"This is the first sequenced genome of arbuscular mycorrhizae, the type that is dominant on the planet," said Igor Grigoriev, one of the senior authors on the paper and lead for the Fungal Genomics Program at the DOE JGI.

It was a long hard road to a sequenced arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus. In 2006, shortly after the DOE JGI sequenced the first tree genome, Populus trichocarpa, it became apparent that it took a village (of other organisms) to raise a poplar tree. Researchers Jerry Tuskan of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Francis Martin
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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How scavenging fungi became a plant's best friend
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