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Exploring the diversity of organic matter decomposition mechanisms in terrestrial fungi

Closing the gap between genome sequences and ecological function

Saprotrophic mushroom forming fungi play tremendous role in carbon cycling across terrestrial ecosystems. They are separated in three distinct groups including litter decomposers, white-rot wood decomposers, and brown-rot wood decomposers. Recent genomic studies have revealed that:

  1. the substrate or decomposition mechanisms differences in these fungi are depicted on their genomic characteristics,
  2. within any given group we have started identifying outliers that have genomic characteristics that partly deviate from other more typical members of each group.

These findings suggest that the genomic differences most probably represent functional differences waiting to be discovered and that under the common terms currently in use such as white-rot there is a much larger functional diversity.

A scientific graph.

This project aims to develop new ways to understand how these genomic characteristics of fungi from the three groups are related to decomposition fingerprints in relation to lignin and cellulose decomposition. To accomplish this we are going to use cutting edge techniques such as Raman and IR spectroscopy and X-ray scattering. We will also expand our experiments to chitin since it represents a major constituent of fungal biomass and a particularly rich nitrogen reservoir in soils. The project will gradually develop towards more complex substrates such as litter and wood tissues. The findings of the projects will help us to connect genomic data and decomposition activities of fungi and will shed light in the decomposition mechanisms employed by saprotrophic mushroom forming fungi.

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