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UC Berkeley to Sequence Massive Italian Fungi Collection

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Museum of Natural History in Venice, Italy, and the University of California at Berkeley plan to sequence portions of 1,200 fungi species and build a database of their genetic information.
Matteo Garbelotto, an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, said the studies, which will use the Museum’s 28,000-sample fungi archive, will aid other research areas such as forestry, agriculture, and those trying to diagnose plant diseases.
“We are building a huge molecular database that will be available to the entire scientific community,” he said in a statement yesterday. "In the case of exotic plant diseases, DNA information may be used, as it is in criminal forensics, to identify possible culprits and to understand how they were introduced.”
Garbelotto said the database “will allow people to identify the fungi present in plants, in the soil, and in the air at any time."
The fungi samples, which come from areas across Europe and elsewhere, will be sequenced at a lab at UC Berkeley.   
The researchers will not sequence the entire genome for each fungus. Instead, they will focus on sequencing a region of ribosomal DNA that is unique to each species to help compare and identify species in lab environments.
"If you're going to cross-compare species you've got to amplify the same region,” UC Berkeley researcher Sarah Bergemann said in the statement.  
Bergemann explained that the ability to compare DNA will enable researchers to perform more advanced evolutionary studies of fungi and will help scientists track related fungi species and how they are distributed.
The organizers said the database will also help identification based on genotype, which could save time because many fungi varieties are identifiable only when they bloom.

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