Adrian Tsang is a biology professor and director of Concordia’s Center for Structural and Functional Genomics. Photo: Concordia University
heat-loving fungi, often found in composts that self-ignite without flame or
spark, could soon have new vocations.
complete genetic makeup of Myceliophthora thermophila and Thielavia
terrestris has been decoded by an international group of scientists. The
findings, published in Nature
Biotechnology, may lead to the faster and greener development of
biomass-based fuels, chemicals, and other industrial materials.
that thrive at high temperatures are rare. Fewer than 40 heat-loving fungi have
been identified and they hold great promise in the production of many chemicals
and biomass-based fuels,” says senior author Adrian Tsang, a biology professor
at Concordia University and director of its Center
for Structural and Functional Genomics.
cracked the genetic blueprint of two such fungi. To our knowledge these are the
only organisms, aside from a few bacteria, whose genomes have been fully sequenced
from end-to end,” he continues.
The complete genetic makeup of Myceliophthora thermophila, a fungus, has been decoded to help propel the creation of clean energy sources. Image: Concordia University
sequencing Myceliophthora thermophila and Thielavia terrestris,
the research team also discovered that both fungi could accelerate the
breakdown of fibrous materials from plants at temperatures ranging from 40 to
70 C. This temperature range is too hot for many of the typical enzymes that
form an important component of some industrial processes used to degrade
biomass into a range of chemicals and products.
others fail, these fungi thrive. “Our next goal is to figure out how these
organisms flourish at high temperatures and what makes them so efficient in
breaking down plant materials,” says Tsang.
discoveries will further stimulate the search for better ways to transform
green waste—stalks, twigs, agricultural straw, and leaves—into renewable
chemicals and fuels.
produced by these fungi could also be tweaked to replace the use of
environmentally harmful chemicals in the manufacture of plant-based commodities
such as pulp and paper.
multi-sectoral research team, composed of scientists from academia, government,
and industry, is essential to making these new advances. “We could not have
made these findings separately, since this type of research benefits
tremendously from the intellectual input of researchers from different
sectors,” Tsang says. “This is an important discovery as we position ourselves
from a fossil-fuel economy to one that uses biomass materials.”