Rather than sequencing the entire genome of each species, the researchers are focusing on a non-coding region of the ribosomal DNA that is known to be unique in each species. The length of the region varies from around 450 base pairs to 900 base pairs, depending upon the taxa from which it is sampled.
"If you're going to cross-compare species, you've got to amplify the same region," said Sarah Bergemann, the post-doctoral researcher in ecosystem science who is heading the lab analysis work at UC Berkeley. Bergemann is working with Amy Smith, staff research associate at Garbelotto's lab, to process the samples Garbelotto sends from Italy.
"This will be important for people who study the evolutionary characteristics of fungi," said Bergemann. "They'll be able to use our database for cross comparisons. It's also useful for people who study species distribution. For example, if you want to figure out how some species are related to one another, and you know something about their taxonomy, you can go back to their DNA to see if the morphological characteristics match their molecular code."
Without the DNA fingerprint, researchers traditionally need to wait for fungi to fruit or mushroom to identify them. "This can be very limiting because mushrooms are only produced seasonally, with some species only fruiting once every several years," said Garbelotto. "The database we are creating will allow people to identify the fungi present in plants, in the soil and in the air at any time."
The project, which began in April, is expected to be completed by the end of 2007. "We do not know of any similar project in Europe, at least of this dimension," said Enrico Ratti, the museum's scientific director.
"The importance of this project is in the cooperation between different subjects, namely private collectors, a private association, a public municipal museum and a foreign unive
Source:University of California - Berkeley