|Agaricus bisporus. Source: University of Warwick|
Researchers at the University of Warwick are coordinating a global effort to sequence the genome of the mushroom Agaricus bisporus—also known as the table or button mushroom. A better understanding of the mushroom’s genome could assist in the creation of biofuels, support the effort to manage global carbon, and help remove heavy metals from contaminated soils.
The Agaricus mushrooms are highly efficient secondary decomposers of plant material such as leaves and litter, breaking down the material that is too tough for other fungi and bacteria to handle.
How Agaricus it does this, particularly how it degrades lignin, is not fully understood. By sequencing the full genome of the mushroom, researchers hope to uncover exactly which genes are key to this process. That information will be useful to scientists and engineers looking to maximize the decomposition and transformation of plant material into biofuels.
The mushroom also forms an important model for carbon cycling studies. Carbon is sequestered in soils as plant organic matter. Between 1–2 gigatonnes of carbon per year are sequestered in pools on land in the temperate and boreal regions of the earth, which represents 15–30% of annual global emissions of carbon from fossil fuels and industrial activities. Understanding the carbon cycling role of these fungi in the forests and other ecosystems is an important component of optimizing carbon management.
Several Agaricus species are also able to hyper-accumulate toxic metals in soils at a higher level than many other fungi. Understanding how the mushroom does this improves prospects of using such fungi for the bioremediation of contaminated soils.
Agaricus bisporus is one of the most widely cultivated mushrooms, with annual world-wide production of 2 million tonnes with a value of £3 billion (US$6.1 billion). The genome research will also benefit growers and consumers through identification of improved quality traits such as disease resistance.
The University of Warwick’s horticultural research arm Warwick HRI will co-ordinate provision of genetic materials to the Joint Genome Institute in California for sequencing, will organize analysis of the sequence data and act as curator of the mushroom genome.
The other partners in the international project team are: DOE Joint Genome Institute USA, University of Bristol, USDA Research at University of Wisconsin, Southeast Missouri State University, Clark University, Sylvan Inc USA, Institut für Forstbotanik der Universität Göttingen, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Public University of Navarre, Penn State University, Plant Research International Wageningen and Universiteit Utrecht.
Agaricus bisporus has around 35 megabases of genetic information coding for an estimated 11,000 genes. The researchers expect to have a 90% complete genome within 3 years.