November 2019


Westerdijk Institute 2020 Spring Symposium

Symposium "Rise of the Fungi"

Changing climate patterns have severe impact on quality of life. Global change also affects fungal ecology and pathology, with new diseases emerging of plants, humans and animals. To highlight the importance of human, animal and plant health in a global perspective, a special symposium with leading scientists is planned to address how global and climate change impact on fungi, specifically those involved with plant and human diseases, as well as food and forest security. Special sessions address plant health and climate change, food security, human health, fungal applications in industry, fungal ecology and genomics. This meeting also addresses new developments on fungal taxonomy, such as the inclusion of Digital Sequence Information (DSI) under the Nagoya Protocol, and the naming of environmental sequences (dark taxa). Furthermore, to create more public awareness and engagement for these new challenges, a special public engagement meeting on fungal catastrophes has been organized, which precedes the Rise of the Fungi symposium.

Venue: Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute, Uppsalalaan 8, 3584CT Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Registration: € 180.- Registration includes coffee/tea breaks and lunches. It also includes drinks and dinner following the Elevator poster pitches on 23 April



Toby Kiers, keynote speaker in session 6 “Fungal evolution and ecology”. Title: Underground fungal trade markets in nature
VU professor (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) Toby Kiers will be one of the keynote speakers at the Westerdijk Institute 2020 Spring Symposium “Rise of the Fungi”. Toby Kiers investigates how cooperation between species evolves and persists. Her recent work focuses on resource trading between plants and fungi and how complex ‘biological markets’ dominate the underground. She is interested in when and why organisms defect from cooperation, and how cheating strategies emerge in nature. More information:

Francis Martin, keynote speaker in session 7 “Fungal genomes and taxonomy”. Title: Unearthing the evolution of nutrition modes in forest mushrooms.
Francis Martin, Distinguished Research Director at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Head of the Cluster of excellence ARBRE and Distinguished Professor at the Beijing Forestry University, China, will be one of the keynote speakers at the Westerdijk Institute 2020 Spring Symposium ‘Rise of the Fungi’. His research focuses on understanding how fungi drive forest ecosystems through their roles in important soil processes including decomposition and nutrient turnover as well as carbon sequestration. As a general overarching goal he mentions: ‘determining whether the lifestyle of a plant-interacting fungal species can be predicted from the patterns exhibited in its genome’. In his talk at ‘Rise of the Fungi’ Martin will address mutualistic symbioses between certain trees and ectomycorrhizal fungi. He will highlight recent large scale genomic studies that have revealed the convergent evolution of ectomycorrhizal fungi, which led for example to the loss of the lignocellulose decay apparatus and the acquisition of mycorrhiza-induced small secreted proteins that facilitate interactions with plant hosts. You win some, you lose some seems to be the pattern. These adaptations suggest that ectomycorrhizal symbiosis provides a useful model to study the evolution of nutritional modes in fungi with.

Public evening "Fungal Catastrophes"

Venue: Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie der Wetenschappen / Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences, Tinbergen zaal, Kloveniersburgwal 29, 1011 JV Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Time : 18.30 – 21.30
Language : English
Registration : Compulsory. Number of seats available : 175. Free access

“We are losing biodiversity on a massive scale due to emerging fungal infections”, Professor Matthew Fisher states. He is one of three speakers at the public evening ‘Fungal Catastrophes’ taking place at the opening of a three days international mycological symposium ‘Rise of the Fungi’. The public evening coincides with the 50th International Earth Day focusing on the protection of our environment.
The speakers at this public event with the dark title ‘Fungal Catastrophes’ will talk about fungal threats and possible solutions. Amphibians are under severe threat by fungal diseases caused by human intervention. White-nose syndrome, affecting bats, is ‘burning across North America’, and at a global scale also plants, trees and crops perish due to fungal infections. The number of fungal infections in humans is rising too, together with the worrisome emergence of antifungal resistance.
The massive death in amphibians is mainly caused by humans dispersing fungi and by fungal resistance against fungicides. An additional factor is the scarcity of effective fungicides that can be safely used and, related to that, the widespread use of antifungals in agriculture and industry. Furthermore, fungi and humans are more related than one would think, which often hinders the development of new antifungal drugs.


Atlas of Clinical Fungi

Foliar pathogens of eucalypts

A new, completely revised, full-color version of the Atlas of Clinical Fungi, the world’s most famous handbook on fungi of medical and veterinary relevance, is now being edited for hard copy.



Authors: P.W. Crous, M.J. Wingfield, R. Cheewangkoon, A.J. Carnegie, T. Burgess, B.A. Summerell, J. Edwards, P.W.J. Taylor, and J.Z. Groenewald
Details: softcover, 261 pp, full colour
Price: € 55,-
ISBN: 978-94-91751-19-6


NEW - Lab Manual 1 & 2 at APS

Our lab manuals are now also available through the American PhytopathologicalSociety via the APS bookstore . And of course, you can also still buy your copy of the book in the Westerdijk Institute web shop

Westerdijk Laboratory Manual Series 1: Fungal Biodiversity

Westerdijk Laboratory Manual Series 2: Food and Indoor Fungi – second edition

Authors: P.W. Crous, G.J.M. Verkleij, J.Z. Groenewald, and J. Houbraken
Details: hardcover, bound, 425 pp, full colour
Price: € 75,-
ISBN: 978-94-91751-16-5

Authors: R.A. Samson, J. Houbraken, U. Thrane, J.C. Frisvad, and B. Andersen
Details: hardcover, bound, 481 pp, full colour
Price: € 85,-
ISBN: 978-94-91751-18-9

Course Food & Indoor fungi 2019 – in retrospect

Ann Dorte Pörneki, owner of the Danish company House Test ApS was one of the participants of the course “Food and Indoor Fungi” taught in October by Jos Houbraken and his group. Her company tests air if there is a suspicion of molds. She never cultures the molds, she looks at their DNA. In this course she is actually sitting behind the microscope looking at the real stuff. “I was used to looking at mammal cells, but these growing fungi, they are so beautiful. Sometimes I only sit and enjoy the structure.”

Course Fungal Biodiversity 2020 – looking forward

Venue: Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute, Utrecht, Uppsalalaan 8, The Netherlands.
Price: € 1700,-


This yearly course has now been transformed into a 1-week course. The course provides a concise overview of the biodiversity of organisms representing the Kingdom Fungi. The course focuses on systematics and general ecology of fungi, as well as related topics such as soil mycology and diagnostics of plant pathogens. Both visual and molecular recognition methods will be discussed and practical hands-on experience will be gained in the morphological recognition and cultivation of fungi. The course is intended for (micro)biology students, PhD students, technicians and scientists/students who would like to obtain a fundamental understanding of fungi. The course uses the new Laboratory Manual 1: Fungal Biodiversity by Crous et al.

Upcoming defense

Amir Arastehfar, student in the Yeast Research group of Teun Boekhout, will defend his thesis “Development of Fungal Identification Tools and Evaluation of Microbiological and Clinical Profiles of Candida Species from Iran” on 9 December @11.00am at the Singelkerk, Singel 452, 1017 AW Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

How to build a huge Penicillium

A huge Penicillium eyecatcher grows on the stairs of the Westerdijk Institute. The Institute thanks the University Museum Utrecht for donating their Penicillium artwork that “grew” out of their building in the past two years. The object was installed two weeks ago.

Westerdijk in the news

On 24 October 2019 (NPO3) the Westerdijk Institute featured in an episode of the critical consumer television program "Keuringsdienst van Waarde" about kefir. Teun Boekhout analysed supermarket kefir, with some surprising results.

Citizen Science project Fungi for Future goes International!

The DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB) outreach team of the Forestry & Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) in South Africa, is an active new partner in the ‘Fungi for the Future’ initiative which forms part of their citizen science project. This initiative was first launched by the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute (WI) and the University Museum Utrecht in the Netherlands, but has now gone international. The project kicked off in South Africa last week, with Prof. Kupe, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pretoria (right), pictured here together with FABI postdoc Neriman Yilmaz Visagie (left), collecting the first soil sample on the Future Africa campus in Pretoria. Several sampling kits have also been distributed to schools in the region. Students will collect soil samples from their home gardens, which will be processed at FABI (University of Pretoria), in collaboration with the Westerdijk Institute in the Netherlands. New species will be named after the various collectors or schools, while the fungi themselves will also be incorporated into diverse research projects running at the University of Pretoria. 

Read more about the Fungi for Future School Outreach launch:

Research highlights

Fungal Natural Products - Collemare Group

European Fungal Secondary Metabolism symposium
Jérôme Collemare was one of the three organisers of the European Fungal Secondary Metabolism symposium which took place in Hannover, Germany on September 30th and October 1st. The other two organisers being Prof. Soizic Prado from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, and Prof. Russell Cox from Leibniz University of Hannover. The symposium was a success; the outlines of new collaborations were already taking shape during the meeting.

Yeast - Boekhout Group

Article: Recent trends in molecular diagnostics of yeast infections: from PCR to NGS.
Authors: Consortium OPATHY, Gabaldón T
Journal: FEMS Microbiology Reviews 43(5): 517-547.
DOI: 10.1093/femsre/fuz015
Abstract: The incidence of opportunistic yeast infections in humans has been increasing over recent years. These infections are difficult to treat and diagnose, in part due to the large number and broad diversity of species that can underlie the infection. In addition, resistance to one or several antifungal drugs in infecting strains is increasingly being reported, severely limiting therapeutic options and showcasing the need for rapid detection of the infecting agent and its drug susceptibility profile. Current methods for species and resistance identification lack satisfactory sensitivity and specificity, and often require prior culturing of the infecting agent, which delays diagnosis. Recently developed high-throughput technologies such as next generation sequencing or proteomics are opening completely new avenues for more sensitive, accurate and fast diagnosis of yeast pathogens. These approaches are the focus of intensive research, but translation into the clinics requires overcoming important challenges. In this review, we provide an overview of existing and recently emerged approaches that can be used in the identification of yeast pathogens and their drug resistance profiles. Throughout the text we highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each methodology and discuss the most promising developments in their path from bench to bedside.

Applied and Industrial Mycology - Houbraken group

Article: The most heat-resistant conidia observed to date are formed by distinct strains of Paecilomyces variotii
Authors: van den Brule T et al.
Journal: Environmental Microbiology
DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.14791
Abstract: Fungi colonize habitats by means of spores. These cells are stress-resistant compared with growing fungal cells. Fungal conidia, asexual spores, formed by cosmopolitan fungal genera like Penicillium, Aspergillus and Paecilomyces are dispersed by air. They are present in places where food products are stored and as a result, they cause food spoilage. Here, we determined the heterogeneity of heat resistance of conidia between and within strains of Paecilomyces variotii, a spoiler of foods such as margarine, fruit juices, canned fruits and non-carbonized sodas. Out of 108 strains, 31 isolates showed a conidial survival >10% after a 10-min-heat treatment at 59°C. Three strains with different conidial heat resistance were selected for further phenotyping. Conidia of DTO 212-C5 and DTO 032-I3 showed 0.3% and 2.6% survival in the screening respectively, while survival of DTO 217-A2 conidia was >10%. The decimal reduction times of these strains at 60°C (D60 value) were 3.7 ±0.08, 5.5 ±0.35 and 22.9 ±2.00 min respectively. Further in-depth analysis revealed that the three strains showed differences in morphology, spore size distributions, compatible solute compositions and growth under salt stress. Conidia of DTO 217-A2 are the most heat-resistant reported so far. The ecological consequences of this heterogeneity of resistance, including food spoilage, are discussed.

Fungal Physiology - de Vries Group

Article: Cinnamic acid and sorbic acid conversion are mediated by the same transcriptional regulator in Aspergillus niger
Authors: Lubbers RJM et al.
Journal: Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 7: 149.
DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2019.00249
Abstract:  Cinnamic acid is an aromatic compound commonly found in plants and functions as a central intermediate in lignin synthesis. Filamentous fungi are able to degrade cinnamic acid through multiple metabolic pathways. One of the best studied pathways is the non-oxidative decarboxylation of cinnamic acid to styrene. In Aspergillus niger, the enzymes cinnamic acid decarboxylase (CdcA, formally ferulic acid decarboxylase) and the flavin prenyltransferase (PadA) catalyze together the non-oxidative decarboxylation of cinnamic acid and sorbic acid. The corresponding genes, cdcA and padA, are clustered in the genome together with a putative transcription factor previously named sorbic acid decarboxylase regulator (SdrA). While SdrA was predicted to be involved in the regulation of the non-oxidative decarboxylation of cinnamic acid and sorbic acid, this was never functionally analyzed. In this study, A. niger deletion mutants of sdrAcdcA, and padA were made to further investigate the role of SdrA in cinnamic acid metabolism. Phenotypic analysis revealed that cdcAsdrA and padA are exclusively involved in the degradation of cinnamic acid and sorbic acid and not required for other related aromatic compounds. Whole genome transcriptome analysis of sdrA grown on different cinnamic acid related compounds, revealed additional target genes, which were also clustered with cdcAsdrA, and padA in the A. niger genome. Synteny analysis using 30 Aspergillus genomes demonstrated a conserved cinnamic acid decarboxylation gene cluster in most Aspergilli of the Nigri clade. Aspergilli lacking certain genes in the cluster were unable to grow on cinnamic acid, but could still grow on related aromatic compounds, confirming the specific role of these three genes for cinnamic acid metabolism of A. niger.

Phytopathology - Crous Group

Article: Back to the roots: a reappraisal of Neocosmospora
Authors: Sandoval-Denis M et al.
Journal: Persoonia 43: 90-185.
DOI: 10.3767/persoonia.2019.43.04
Abstract:  There are several fusarium-like genera in the Nectriaceae.  Just because a conidium has a foot cell, does not by default mean it's a species of Fusarium s.str., and researchers will have to consult the DNA phylogeny, morphology of the sexual morph, or conidiophore morphology to determine to which genus their isolates belong. These facts and implications are presented in the monograph of Neocosmospora by Sandoval-Denis and co-workers.
The genus Neocosmospora (Fusarium solani species complex) contains saprobes, plant endophytes and pathogens of major economic significance as well as opportunistic animal pathogens. Advances in biological and phylogenetic species recognition revealed a rich species diversity which has largely remained understudied. Most of the currently recognised species lack formal descriptions and Latin names, while the taxonomic utility of old names is hampered by the lack of nomenclatural type specimens. Therefore, to stabilise the taxonomy and nomenclature of these important taxa, we examined type specimens and representative cultures of several old names by means of morphology and phylogenetic analyses based on rDNA (ITS and LSU), rpb2 and tef1 sequences. Sixty-eight species are accepted in Neocosmospora, 29 of them described herein as new; while 13 new combinations are made. Eleven additional phylogenetic species are recognized, but remain as yet undescribed. Lectotypes are proposed for eight species, seven species are epitypified and two species are neotypified. Notes on an additional 17 doubtful or excluded taxa are provided.

Medical Mycology - Hagen Group

The research group Medical Mycology has implemented the use of long-read nanopore sequencing which paves the way for applications like comparative genomics in outbreak settings and de novo genome assemblies for clinically relevant fungal species for which no (high quality) genome is available. This has resulted in the publication of the high-quality complete genome sequence of the opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida vulturna, recently accepted for publication in Mycopathologia ( As next generation sequencing is becoming the standard in medical mycology we actively participate in hands-on training, like the Data Carpentry Genomics workshop in Utrecht (November 25th & 26th, 2019). For this training only few places are available via this link ( 

CBS Fungal Collection - Verkleij Group

On November 1st 2019, the CBS Collection acquired its fifth 3-year IS0 certificate for its ISO 9001:2015 quality management system. The scope of the certificate includes the accession, preservation, storage and supply of microbial cultures and related information, and includes the public CBS and NCCB Collections and the secured collections for Budapest Treaty deposits and safe deposits. Staff of the CBS Collection department has succeeded in maintaining high quality standards and continuously improve its performance, with the invaluable support from the service departments of the Westerdijk Institute and Hubrecht Institute. In the photo the CBS Collection team proudly shows the new certificate.

Bioinformatics, Software Developments and Databasing - Robert Group

A paper recently published in mBio by Arturo Casadevall, Dimitrios P Kontoyiannis, Vincent Robert and entitled "on the emergence of Candida auris: climate change, azoles, swamps and birds" has recently caught the attention of news media worldwide during the last few days with articles in the Washington post, Time, The Telegraph, The Sun, The Daily Mail, and other journals as well as on TV networks like CNN, NBC, CBS, 9NEWS or RT. The authors have also been interviewed on several radios in the BNR in the Netherlands and CBC in Canada. Here are short movies or TV programs illustrating the problem and a poem was even written by a British researcher. More news here and or here.



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