Course 2020 – in retrospect
The annual Fungal Biodiversity Course of 2020 was held from 10-14
February at the Westerdijk Institute in Utrecht. Participants from 9 countries attended the course and
were provided with lectures by scientists of Westerdijk Institute, and by
invited lecturers Thom Kuyper (Wageningen University) and Grit Walther
(Hans-Knöll-Institut, Jena). Seventy living cultures displaying their typical
characteristics and representing all groups of culturable fungi were
studied by the participants in the practical work sessions. For the first time
in the 40-year-long history of this annual course it was done in a one-week
format, posing quite a challenge for both the organisers and participants. The
participants showed a stimulating eagerness to absorb it all, and we look
forward to hear their feedback to further improve this course.
FUSE volume 5
Fungal Systematics and
Evolution (FUSE) volume 5 – June 2020 – full issue is available online at
Ingenta and via fuse-journal.org.
FUSE is an international, peer-reviewed,
open-access, full colour, fast-track journal. Papers will include reviews,
research articles, methodology papers, taxonomic monographs, and the
description of fungi.
Keynote speakers Rise of the Fungi
Brakhage, scientific director of the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product
Research and Infection Biology in Jena (Germany) will speak about biologically
active compounds produced during microbial interactions and how biotechnology tools allow us
mastering their biosynthesis, in his keynote lecture for the session ‘Fungal
applications: metabolites and enzymes’.
The sequencing of fungal genomes has revealed an
unexpected high potential for secondary metabolite production. Most of these
biosynthetic pathways are however inactive under laboratory conditions. The key
question is how to activate those silent genes? The development of biotechnology
tools to do that is closely related to understanding how the production of
compounds is regulated in fungi. Aspergillus species are the model
organism that Prof. Axel Brakhage uses most to study this regulation and find
new strategies to ‘unlock’ the genes. For example, simulating the natural
habitat by co-cultivation of microorganisms, like bacteria, from the same
ecological niche, already led to the activation of silent gene clusters and the
production of new compounds in Aspergillus nidulans. More about new advances
in fungal secondary metabolism in Prof. Brakhage’s talk.
Keynote speaker of
the session: ‘Human
health: fungi on the move’ will be Matthew
Fisher, professor of Fungal Disease Epidemiology at St Mary's
Hospital, Imperial College London.
Matthew Fisher’s main
interest lies in the biological and environmental factors driving emerging
infectious disease. In this talk he will focus on the emergence of
azole-resistance in Aspergillus
fumigatus. New and unprecedented research points to the use of
azoles in the environment as the main cause of resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus. ‘Azole
resistance is a very recent problem, it only emerged in the 1990’s, around the
time azoles were introduced in agriculture. Our research shows azole resistance
evolved a very limited number of times, maybe only once, and after that it
spread globally and very fast.’ Fisher has used genome sequencing of 600
isolates from all over the world in order to establish the source (or sources)
of the resistance.
So far he has published only a small part of the research. At ‘Rise of the
fungi’ he will uncover more of the outcomes from his research group. He will
also discuss two promising new drugs and suspected hotspots of amplification of
azole resistance such as the Dutch bulb industry.
IMA Board meeting
Saturday 25 April, the day after the Symposium “Rise of the Fungi”, the International
Mycological Association (IMA) Executive Committee will hold their meeting
at the Westerdijk Institute.
Public Symposium Fungal Catastrophes
“At the 50th
International Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, the Westerdijk Fungal
Biodiversity Institute is organizing a public evening about the emergence of
novel and resistant fungi and its consequences for people and the environment.
The public evening is the opening of the international scientific symposium
"Rise of the Fungi". Three renowned scientists will talk about the
emergence of new pathogenic fungi and resistance to antifungal agents. How
should infections be fought in humans if fungi are resistant to the usual
drugs? What are the prospects for developing new antifungal agents? Is there a
solution to the global problem of the dying banana trees caused by mold? What
impact does the introduction of fungi in new living environments have on the
biodiversity of the amphibians present there? The lectures will be in English.
The venue of the public evening will be the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (“KNAW”) in
Beauveria loeiensis ascomata
on leaf-rolling cricket, Gryllacrididae, Orthoptera (Picture:
Prof.dr.ir. GHJ (Gert) Kema, Wageningen University,
Going Bananas is the title of the second lecture of our public
symposium. Bananas are a major food crop. In his lecture, Gert Kema will shed
light on a disastrous disease in bananas: Fusarium Wilt of banana (FWB) or
Panama disease, which is caused by a suite of soil-borne fungi that belong to
the genus Fusarium. In the previous century FWB devastated Gros Michel
banana plantations in Central America. Fortunately, another cultivar with
resistance to the disease, the Cavendish banana, saved the industry.
Today, FWB threatens
banana again. Cavendish bananas and many local varieties destined for domestic
markets are decimated by a new Fusarium species, the so-called Tropical Race 4 (TR4).
However, Cavendish bananas cannot be substituted with resistant varieties. They
are not available and developing new varieties is complicated because all
edible bananas are sterile and hence develop seedless fruits. This is the very
reason why we can eat them, contrary to wild bananas whose pea-sized seeds
fill-up the entire fruit. Hence, all edible bananas are propagated as clones.
This makes banana crops genetically identical – so-called monocultures - and
therefore vulnerable to a plethora of disease and pests.
Kema addresses in his
lecture interesting and puzzling properties of Fusarium fungi causing FWB, how they spread across the globe
and possible short and long-term ways to deal
with the disease.
Westerdijk students and
staff presenting at ECFG in Rome
Staff and students presenting themselves
at the ECFG15 (15th European
Conference on Fungal Genetics) in Rome, Italy, last week
Sandra Garrigues giving a flashtalk (3min) at Asperfest (a satellite
workshop at ECFG15) in Rome, Italy.
Ronnie Lubbers, PhD in de Fungal Physiology Research Group of Ronald P. de Vries, won a
poster prize at the Asperfest satellite workshop at the ECFG15!