In order to optimally utilise fungi, and to fight them when necessary, we require greater insight into the functions that they can perform. Researchers at TU Delft and Utrecht University have exposed a new layer of functional complexity in fungi. They published their findings in the Friday, 23 September issue of Nature Scientific Reports.
“Fungi brew our beer and produce important antibiotics”, explains Prof. Marcel Reinders from TU Delft’s Delft Bioinformatics Lab. “You can also use them to make materials for things like insulation, and in the future perhaps even clothing. They produce bioethanol, and we even eat them in the form of mushrooms. Since they recycle organic material, they are also vital for healthy soil for crops. However, as pathogens they present a threat to our health, and as such they present a danger to food supplies and food safety. In order to optimally utilise or combat fungi in all of these different environments, we need a full insight into their functional repertoire.”
To that end, Reinders and his colleague Prof. Han Wösten from Utrecht University began a research project into the products of alternative splicing in fungi. Alternative splicing is a process in the cell in which one gene can produce two different proteins, each with its own function. This increases the complexity and functionality of the genome.
Almost no research
“Deviant alternative splicing, or mutations in the products of alternative splicing, have been tied to cancer, autism and serious development disorders, both in mice and in humans. But despite its major consequences for mammals, scientists have performed almost no research on alternative splicing in fungi”, according to Reinders.