Research cracked the genetic code of the dry rot fungus

When the wooden flooring of a summer house gives way, the reason may well be Serpula lacrymans, a brown rot fungus. This dry rot fungus is the most destructive decaying agent for timber in buildings and other wood construction materials in the temperate regions of the world.

Research cracked the genetic code of the dry rot fungus

Researchers, however, have a better grasp on this insidious visitor now that its entire genome has been sequenced in a multi-year research project. The results of the project were published in Science journal in July.

The project which was co-ordinated by the University of Swansea in Wales, UK involved 48 fungi researchers from around the world, including Professor of Forest Pathology Fred Asiegbu and Professor Yong-Hwan Lee, both from the University of Helsinki. Yong-Hwan Lee is visiting through the Finland Distinguished Professor Programme (FiDiPro).

According to Asiegbu, the genome project revealed new aspects on the evolution of wood decaying fungi, which are divided into white and brown rot. White rot fungi are capable of attacking the lignin and cellulose components of wood whereas the brown rotters preferentially consume mostly celluloses and hemicelluloses.

– When the genome of Serpula lacrymans was compared to those of other fungi, we discovered that brown rot fungi evolved from white rot ancestry. Through evolution, they have lost several enzymes important for effective decomposition of lignocelluloses. Instead, they have developed an alternative way of attacking celluloses.

These novel findings may hold the key to preventing brown rot decay caused by Serpula lacrymans.

– This also creates opportunities for practical applications. Our research project, however, is only the first step. The development of environmentally friendly preventive methods against this dry rot fungus necessitates the need for further research, Asiegbu points out.

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Text: Juha Merimaa
Photo: Fred Asiegbu
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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