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DOE's JGI Sequences Genome of Symbiotic Tree Fungus

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute has sequenced and analyzed the genome of Laccaria bicolor, a fungus that forms a beneficial symbiosis with trees.
 
Eddy Rubin, JGI director, said in a statement that the Laccaria genome sequence will help the research community “develop faster-growing trees for producing more biomass that can be converted to fuels, and for trees capable of capturing more carbon from the atmosphere."
 
Laccaria bicolor is a type of mycorrhizal fungi, which excel at procuring scarce nutrients such as phosphate and nitrogen. Mycorrhizae “significantly improve photosynthetic carbon assimilation by plants and are estimated to fix more phosphate and nitrogen than the entire worldwide chemical fertilizer industry produces,” JGI said.
 
The Laccaria sequence should help researchers understand the functional genomics behind the symbiotic relationship, and eventually shed light on biomass production and carbon management.
 
JGI plans to study the genome sequence alongside that of the poplar tree, which it has also sequenced. "We can now harness the interaction between these species and identify the factors involved in biomass production by characterizing the changes that occur between the two genomes as the tree and the fungus collaborate to generate biomass,” Rubin said.
 
Studying the interaction between poplar and Laccaria bicolor will also help researchers understand environmental stressors, such as drought and extreme temperature, and other biological factors, “providing a new dimension to climate change research and a step further toward mechanistic modeling of ecosystem responses," Rubin said.
 
The sequence was announced yesterday at the Fifth International Conference on Mycorrhiza in Granada, Spain, by an international consortium comprised of JGI, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, France's National Institute for Agricultural Research, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Belgium’s Ghent University, and additional groups in Germany, Sweden, and France.