Master switches of initiation of mushroom formation

Robin Ohm, Jan de Jong, Luis Lugones, Han Wösten

Fungi belonging to the basidiomycetes form conspicuous fruiting bodies (e.g mushrooms and brackets) after they have colonized substrates like a fallen tree or compost. Many of these fruiting bodies are edible and/or contain bioactive components. However, only few of them have been successfully produced commercially. These include the common white button mushroom (the "champignon"), the oyster mushroom and shiitake. Breeding mushrooms is hampered by a lack of basic knowledge on fruiting body development. The aim of this project is to find regulatory genes that are involved in the initiation of this process. This would allow us to improve mushroom production in the long term and possibly also to produce mushrooms that are not cultivable at the moment. Regulatory genes will be identified in the model system Schizophyllum commune and the commercially most important mushroom forming fungus Agaricus bisporus (white button mushroom). 

The Netherlands are the third largest producer of white button mushrooms in the world and the largest producer in Europe. In 2002 the Dutch production amounted about 265 million kg of mushrooms representing a value of   € 300 million. However, competition from other countries forces the Dutch mushroom industry to innovate. By identifying genes involved in initiation of fruiting we will start to understand the process of mushroom formation. The information can be used by the industry to improve control of mushroom production. Moreover, the research should provide insights how to produce mushroom that can hardly, if at all, be cultivated at the moment. Such mushrooms include species that produce biological active compounds such as anti-tumour polysaccharides. These compounds attract more and more attention of the medical society. This project is of utmost importance to keep the mushroom industry in the Netherlands world leading. Therefore, the mushroom industry represented by Bromyc BV, the Dutch Horticultural Production board (PT) and Plant Research International (Wageningen UR) will actively participate in this project.