Infection biology and evolution of nematode-trapping fungi
Nematode-trapping fungi are soil-living microfungi that can capture, kill and digest nematodes. They enter the parasitic stage by developing specific morphological structures called traps. The traps can be formed either spontaneously or be induced in response to signals from the environment and compounds secreted by nematodes. Infection is initiated when the traps attach to the nematode surface. Subsequently, the fungus penetrates the cuticle, the nematode is killed and finally it is digested by the fungus. The reason for the continuing interest in these fungi is, in part, their potential use as biocontrol agents against plant- and animal parasitic nematodes. Furthermore, these fungi show remarkable morphological and physiological adaptations to parasitic lifestyle.
The main objectives of our present studies are:
- To identify molecular factors contributing to the rapid killing of nematodes by nematode-trapping fungi.
- To characterize the genome and proteome of the nematode-trapping fungus Monacrosporium haptotylum
- To compare the infection mechanism of various species of nematode-trapping fungi infecting the plant parasitic nematodes Meloidogyne hapla(root knot nematode) and Heterodera schachtii(sugar beet cyst nematode).