Doctoral Fellowship: Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands
7/1/2014 5:07 AM
Re-domesticating an ancient domesticated fungus
A 4-year PhD position is available in my lab at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. This NWO funded project will study adaptations of the Termitomyces fungi cultivated by fungus-growing termites to a symbiotic lifestyle. The work will use in vitro microbial techniques to study life-history traits (mycelial growth and asexual spore production and details of enzyme production) of Termitomyces strains, followed by genetic analyses. We have a collection of more than 100 Termitomyces strains, associated with the three most common genera of fungus-growing termites and recently the genome of one strain has been sequenced. The primary goal of this project is to gain fundamental insight in functional aspects of coevolution and mutualistic symbiosis. Ultimately, this knowledge may be used for the artifical cultivation of the highly valued mushrooms formed by Termitomyces. Attempts to cultivate this fungus have been unsuccessful, because essential knowledge of the mutualistic relationship with termites is still lacking.
Knowledge of division of labour between interacting species is required to understand their interdependence in mutualistic relationships, but also to be able to grow mutualistic species in isolation. This second aspect is of applied interest to cultivate organisms that already have been domesticated by other species. Examples of ’re-domestication’ exist in nature, but humans have not employed this approach yet. A promising possibility for re-domestication is provided by the obligate mutualistic symbiosis between termites and Termitomyces fungi. The mushrooms formed by Termitomyces are the most protein-rich mushrooms known, and highly appreciated as a wild food source in many African countries. Unfortunately, attempts to cultivate this fungus have been unsuccessful, because essential knowledge of the mutualistic relationship with termites was lacking until recently. The objectives of this proposal are i) to establish division of labour in substrate degradation between termites and Termitomyces; ii) to establish variation in the growth requirements between Termitomyces strains, and, iii) to establish the factors that initiate mushroom formation. We will use the recently sequenced genome of Termitomyces for in-depth analysis of the genes expressed during different stages of the fungal life cycle, screen our culture collection on a standard set of 35 carbon sources and select strains for further research. The fundamental knowledge gained in this project on the evolution of division of labour in mutualisms will go hand-in-hand with the knowledge required for artificial cultivation of Termitomyces by humans.
Informal enquiries can be addressed to: Duur Aanen, Tel: +31 (0)317 483144, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Laboratory of Genetics
Wageningen University and Research Center
Tel. +31(0)317 483144
Mobile: +31 (0)6 10327948
Fax: +31 (0)317 483146
Wageningen University and Research centre (Wageningen UR) is a leading international organization. Within the field of healthy nutrition and living environment we are working on the quality of life. We are always looking for talented colleagues. Professionals with passion who want to work with us for the world of tomorrow.
The interrelationship between genetics, heredity and evolution is the focus of research of the Laboratory of Genetics (LoG). Central is the study of genetic variation that ranges from the processes that produce it (mutation, recombination), to the factors that have shaped its architecture in the past, and to the factors and processes that determine its fate. Our current research focus can be captured in the following three themes, (1) Generating variation; (2) Genetics and levels of selection, and (3) Genetics of adaptations. Within these themes we can retain and expand on our national and international reputation as a key research group with a unique focus on fundamental and applied aspects of genetics and heredity.
Because evolutionary theory applies to all life forms, and heredity is a key characteristic of life, the genetic and evolutionary analysis of biodiversity requires a broad range of model species that span the major kingdoms. Therefore, the LoG uses prokaryotes (bacteria) and eukaryotes from yeast, fungi, to animals (Drosophila melanogaster) and plants (Arabidopsis thaliana). All our systems are characterized by the ease of laboratory rearing and by the availability of a plethora of genetic and phenotypic tools for experimental manipulation.
Our strength is that we study both fundamental mechanism of genetics as well as the more inclusive mechanisms of heredity (e.g. cytogenetics, epigenetics, regulation of gene expression) and how this influences the genotype-phenotype map. We do this within the unifying framework of evolutionary theory and we focus on fundamental questions and concepts rather than on specific phenotypes or organisms. With our research we both test and further develop the theories and hypotheses of genetics, heredity and evolution, while creating and using opportunities for applying our research to relevant societal problems and questions.