From compost sustainable fuels: Heat-loving fungi sequenced

From compost to sustainable fuels: Heat-loving fungi sequenced

12:30 AM, 18th October 2011
From compost to sustainable fuels: Heat-loving fungi sequenced


MONTREAL, CANADA: Two heat-loving fungi, often found in composts that self-ignite without flame or spark, could soon have new vocations. The complete genetic makeup of Myceliophthora thermophila and Thielavia terrestris has been decoded by an international group of scientists. The findings, published in Nature Biotechnology, may lead to the faster and greener development of biomass-based fuels, chemicals and other industrial materials.

“Organisms that thrive at high temperatures are rare. Fewer than 40 heat-loving fungi have been identified and they hold great promise in the production of many chemicals and biomass-based fuels,” said Adrian Tsang, Senior Author, Biology Professor at Concordia University. “We have cracked the genetic blueprint of two such fungi. To our knowledge these are the only organisms, aside from a few bacteria, whose genomes have been fully sequenced from end-to end.”

In sequencing, the research team also discovered that both fungi could accelerate the breakdown of fibrous materials from plants at temperatures ranging from 40 to 70 degrees celsius. This temperature range is too hot for many of the typical enzymes. “Our next goal is to figure out how these organisms flourish at high temperatures and what makes them so efficient in breaking down plant materials,” said Tsang.

These discoveries will further stimulate the search for better ways to transform green waste - stalks, twigs, agricultural straws and leaves - into renewable chemicals and fuels. Enzymes produced by these fungi could also be tweaked to replace the use of environmentally harmful chemicals in the manufacture of plant-based commodities such as pulp and paper. 

“This is an important discovery as we position ourselves from a fossil-fuel economy to one that uses biomass materials,” said Tsang.

The study was supported by the US Department of Energy, Cellulosic Biofuel Network of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Genome Canada and Genome Quebec.

The paper, “Comparative Genomic Analysis of the Thermophilic Biomass-Degrading Fungi  Myceliophthora thermophila and Thielavia terrestris,” was co-authored by scientists from Concordia University and McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre in Canada; Novozymes Inc, US Depart of Energy Joint Genome Institute, Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, University of New Mexico, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory in the US; Universite de Provence and the Universite de la Mediterranee in France; University of Glasgow in UK; Utrecht University in The Netherlands and Macquarie University in Australia.

© Concordia University News




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