Blue Pippin Winner - David Catcheside

Sage Science BluePippin helps understand how tree-fungus symbioses adapted to drying climates. 

Ectomycorrhizal fungi are the foundation of forest ecosystems, supplying trees with water and minerals that otherwise are inaccessible. Some fungi involved are mushrooms and others truffles that are dependent on small mammals to dig them up, eat them and disperse their spores. The underground fruiting of truffles makes them drought resistant and thus key players in managing forests challenged by climate change.

David Catcheside, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at Flinders University, leads a consortium of scientists based at five different institutions in Australia and New Zealand who are seeking to understand how many different families of ectomycorrhizal mushrooms gave rise to truffles doing the same job. For this they need to sequence fungal genomes to identify the changes involved. Most ectomycorrhizal fungi defy pure culture and DNA from fruiting bodies is often part degraded due to insect damage initiating necrosis.

The high pass electrophoresis cassettes of Sage Science BluePippin will enable the team to remove short DNA fragments that compromise long read sequencing needed for assembling the high-quality genomes required to understand ectomycorrhizal biology. 


The targets of long read HiFi PacBio sequencing:  

Cortinarius archeri, a common ectomycorrhizal fungus in Australian native forests. It's fine mycelial threads collect water and minerals eucalypt roots can't access and trades them for nutrients. Like other mushrooms, it disperses its spores in the air, making it sensitive to dry conditions.

Cortinarius sp., an as yet unnamed truffle relative which also forms ectomycorrhizal associations with eucalypts is shown here in section. Spores are not released and spore dispersal is achieved by small mammals which dig up and eat truffles. Underground fruiting makes them relatively drought tolerant. Scale is in mm.

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