Dec 5, 2011    #205
Contact: John Austin

UMKC Fungal Genetics Stock Center selected to participate in '1000 Genomes' project

Part of international collaborative effort to sequence the genomes of important fungal strains

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With an estimated 1.5 million species, fungi represent one of the largest branches of modern biology's phylogenetic tree or "Tree of Life." They have an enormous impact on human affairs and ecosystem functioning due to their diverse activities as decomposers and pathogens, as well as the mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships they share with other organisms. In order to better understand the diversity of fungi and their functions, researchers at the UMKC Fungal Genetics Stock Center (FGSC), have been selected to join an international team of scientists in a five-year project to sequence 1,000 fungal genomes from the Fungal Tree of Life.

"Fungi are essential biological components of the global carbon cycle and, collectively, they are capable of breaking down virtually any naturally occurring polymer, such as cellulose and collagen, as well as numerous man-made ones, including many types of plastic and synthetic rubber," said Kevin McCluskey, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor and Curator of the FGSC, which is housed at the UMKC School of Biological Sciences. "Fungi also hold considerable promise in the development of alternative fuels, carbon sequestration and bioremediation of contaminated ecosystems."

The use of fungi for the continued benefit of humankind, however, requires an accurate understanding of how they interact in natural and synthetic communities, McCluskey added. The ability to sample natural environments for complex fungal genomes is rapidly becoming a reality and will play an important part in harnessing fungi for industrial, energy and climate management purposes. However, the ability to accurately analyze these data relies on well-characterized, foundational reference data of fungal genomes.

The 1000 Genomes project is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI). The overall plan is to fill in gaps in the Fungal Tree of Life by sequencing at least two reference genomes from the more than 500 recognized families of Fungi. In doing so, this project has the core goal of providing reference information to inform research on plant-microbe interactions, microbial emission and capture of greenhouse gasses, and environmental genomic sequencing as well as animal and human health.

Along with Dr. McCluskey and his colleagues at the FGSC, the 1000 Genomes team includes scientists from Oregon State University, University of California at Riverside, Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Arizona, Centraal Bureau voor Schimmelcultures (Netherlands), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Agricultural Research Service, and the JGI.

About the UMKC Fungal Genetics Stock Center

The FGSC is a collection of research materials, with emphasis on fungi, used for global research in genetics, cell biology, medicine and plant pathology. Founded in 1960 at Dartmouth University, the FGSC distributes material to research laboratories across the globe. Since moving to UMKC in 2004, the FGSC has more than doubled in size and has distributed more than 500,000 cultures worldwide.

About the UMKC School of Biological Sciences

The mission of the School of Biological Sciences is to provide outstanding undergraduate and graduate education in modern biology and to advance our understanding of molecular biology through basic research. The school comprises two academic Divisions -- Cell Biology & Biophysics and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry. The School's pioneering programs in molecular genetics, structural biology and proteomics nurture the intellectual capital necessary to fuel the economic development of biotechnology in Kansas City. Learn more about the School at or find us on Facebook.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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