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Bristol researchers help reveal the true magic of mushrooms

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Adaptable button mushroom serves up biomass-degrading genes critical to managing the planet's carbon stores.

11 October 2012

Image: Bristol University
Image: Bristol University

The button mushroom occupies a prominent place in our diet and in the grocery store where it boasts a tasty multibillion-dollar niche, while in nature, Agaricus bisporus is known to decay leaf matter on the forest floor. Now, thanks to an international collaboration involving Dr Andy Bailey and Professor Gary Foster from the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, the full repertoire of A. bisporus genes has been determined.

In particular, new work shows how its genes are actually deployed not only in leaf decay but also wood decay and in the development of fruiting bodies (the above ground part of the mushroom harvested for food). The work also suggests how such processes have major implications for forest carbon management. The analysis of the inner workings of the world's most cultivated mushroom was published online the week of October 8 in the journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in collaboration with two-dozen institutions, including Bristol, led by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI).

Image: Bristol University
Image: Bristol University

"The true magic of these mushrooms is now being revealed," said Prof Gary Foster, "And we are very pleased to see our involvement and hard work in developing the BBSRC-funded Basidio Molecular Toolkit, which allows analysis of the mushroom genes, being recognised within the paper."

Dr Bailey added "this information is likely to be very useful in breeding new varieties of mushroom that are more resistant to disease, which is a major threat to the economics of mushroom farming, or with improved characteristics such as longer shelf-life".

Further information available from the DOE Joint Genome Institute website.



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