Research & Economic Development

Office of the Vice Chancellor

News & Announcements

UMKC Fungal Genetics Stock Center selected to participate in '1000 Genomes' project

Posted Dec 07, 2011

School of Biological Sciences researchers are part of international collaborative effort to sequence the genomes of important fungal strains

With an estimated 1.5 million species, fungi represent one of the largest branches of modern biology’s phylogenetic tree or “Tree of Life.”  They have an enormous impact on human affairs and ecosystem functioning due to their diverse activities as decomposers and pathogens, as well as the mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships they share with other organisms.  In order to better understand the diversity of fungi and their functions, researchers at the UMKC Fungal Genetics Stock Center (FGSC), have been selected to join an international team of scientists in a five-year project to sequence 1,000 fungal genomes from the Fungal Tree of Life. 

“Fungi are essential biological components of the global carbon cycle and, collectively, they are capable of breaking down virtually any naturally occurring polymer, such as cellulose and collagen, as well as numerous man-made ones, including many types of plastic and synthetic rubber,” said Kevin McCluskey, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor and Curator of the FGSC, which is housed at the UMKC School of Biological Sciences.  “Fungi also hold considerable promise in the development of alternative fuels, carbon sequestration and bioremediation of contaminated ecosystems.”

The use of fungi for the continued benefit of humankind, however, requires an accurate understanding of how they interact in natural and synthetic communities, McCluskey added. The ability to sample natural environments for complex fungal genomes is rapidly becoming a reality and will play an important part in harnessing fungi for industrial, energy and climate management purposes.  However, the ability to accurately analyze these data relies on well-characterized, foundational reference data of fungal genomes.

The 1000 Genomes project is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI). The overall plan is to fill in gaps in the Fungal Tree of Life by sequencing at least two reference genomes from the more than 500 recognized families of Fungi.  In doing so, this project has the core goal of providing reference information to inform research on plant-microbe interactions, microbial emission and capture of greenhouse gasses, and environmental genomic sequencing as well as animal and human health.

Along with Dr. McCluskey and his colleagues at the FGSC, the 1000 Genomes team includes scientists from Oregon State University, University of California at Riverside, Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Arizona, Centraal Bureau voor Schimmelcultures (Netherlands), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Agricultural Research Service, and the JGI.