Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Findings Point to Fungi as Prime Suspects in Fossil Fuel Mystery

Published: Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 03, 2012
Bookmark and Share
Clark research plays key role in landmark paper on fungal genome evolution.

More than 300 million years ago, coal production on the planet came to a sudden stop, leaving a puzzle for scientists. What happened? Newly published research by Clark University biology Professor David Hibbett and an international team of scientists suggests an answer to the mystery.

In a paper titled “The Paleozoic origin of enzymatic lignin decomposition reconstructed from 31 fungal genomes,” senior author Hibbett and co-authors present findings from fungal analyses of 31 genomes, including 12 newly generated for the project by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. The findings appear June 29 in the prestigious Science magazine.

“This research, which is significantly expanding genomic coverage of fungal evolution, presents evidence for what may have brought a sudden halt to the Carboniferous period,” Hibbett said. “Fungi could be the cause.”

Coal is now a mega-commodity, generating nearly half of the electricity in the United States, according to the American Coal Foundation. The plant polymer lignin, which is a component of plant cell walls, gave rise to coal deposits for an estimated 60 million years. Evolution of fungi that can break down the lignin may have been a factor for the sudden drop in coal production. Hibbett noted that enzymes in fungi are prime decayers of wood—a property that presents potential applications for biofuels research.

The work on this project represents a “true community of effective practice,” Hibbett said, deeply involving both undergraduates and graduates. The students worked at annotating the genome, a very labor-intensive process. Even as undergraduates, they were well prepared for the task, having been introduced to this skill through a course taught by assistant professor of biology Heather Wiatrowski. In 2009-10, Wiatrowski coordinated the Undergraduate Research Program in Microbial Genome Annotation, also supported by a JGI grant. Once with the Hibbett Lab more recently, the undergraduates were further trained in genome annotation by Clark Ph.D. student Dimitris Floudas, eventually becoming co-authors of the paper in Science, a remarkable outcome for undergraduates anywhere, Hibbett noted.

“The team for this project includes our lab group here at Clark with national and international partners,” Hibbett said. “Science is the important part, but the community aspect of this research is a significant part. It’s not just one person toiling away in a lab. The real-world connections and scientific impact are extensive.”

Ten of the 71 authors who contributed to the paper are from Clark. Besides senior author Hibbett, co-authors include: Ph.D. student Floudas; former research scientist Manfred Binder; master’s students Darcy Young ’11 and Dylan Glotzer ’11; Clark post-doctoral fellow Laszlo Nagy; and Clark undergraduates Nathan Kallen ’12, Alexis Carlson ’13, Albee Ling (transfer), and Rachael Martin ’13.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,200+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.


Scientific News
Flowers Arrange Themselves for Bees
Study suggests plants can maximise their chances of reproduction by taking advantage of how insects move when they gather nectar.
Improving Wheat Crops in the Field
Agrii, RAGT and the University of Nottingham are developing better disease management and yield production in wheat crops using ASD FieldSpec Handheld 2 portable spectroradiometers.
Unravelling the Roots of Insect’s Waterproof Coating
Researchers have identified the genes that control cuticular lipid production in Drosophila, by performing an RNAi screen and using Direct Analysis in Real Time and GC-MS.
Structural link to Brain Cell Death in Alzheimer's
Study reveals multiple new leads for pursuing potential Alzheimer's treatments
Disentangling the Plant Microbiome
Study says breeding plants, to feed a growing global population, with more beneficial bacteria is far from simple.
Cellular Origin of Skin Cancer Identified
Scientists have identified ‘cell of origin’ in the most common form of skin cancer, and followed the process that leads to tumour growth.
How Plants Sense Electric Fields
An international group of researchers has identified the sensor plants use to sense electric fields. The voltage sensor discovery could contribute to the understanding of how the Ebola virus enters human cells.
Google and EI Partner for Next Generation of Coders
The Earlham Institute's open-source project for visualisation of biological data BioJS acts as mentor organisation for Google Summer of Code 2016.
DNA Production Facility Begins Operation
Scientists mark the opening of the UK's first fully automated DNA construction and modification facility.
A 3D Paper-Based Microbial Fuel Cell
Researchers have developed a proof-of-concept 3D paper-based microbial fuel cell (MFC) that could take advantage of capillary action to guide the liquids through the MFC system and to eliminate the need for external power.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,200+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,800+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!