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Christian Doppler laboratory for "Biotechnology of Fungi"

Fungi are arguably the most important organisms for the production of secondary metabolites in biotechnological processes. For example in the pharmaceutical industry, fungi are used to produce antibiotic, immunosuppressants or statins (to lower blood cholesterol). In order to use fungi in a range of biotechnological processes, strain improvement programmes have been set up to generate suitable fungal strains with a stable and defined genetic background. As a prerequisite for any commercial application, genetically defined strains must be able to guarantee reproducible yields during long-standing production processes. However, strains with natural high yield performance are often characterized by high genetic instability resulting in a decrease in fungal productivity.
Genetic recombination occurs during the sexual life cycle of all higher and lower eukaryotes, including fungi, and completion of sexual development is marked by recombination of two genetically different strains. However, most industrial fungal strains lack any sexual life cycle and therefore can genetically only be manipulated by advanced molecular recombinant techniques. In recent years, the availability of whole genome sequences has extended applications that are devoted to manipulate filamentous fungi. Genome sequencing projects have provided a huge number of data sets that can be applied to functional genomic approaches such as transcriptomics, proteomics or metabolomics.
The Christian Doppler laboratory for “Biotechnology of Fungi” at the Ruhr University Bochum will analyse in close collaboration with Sandoz GmbH (Kundl, Austria) various aspects of the genetic manipulation of industrially relevant filamentous fungi as a prelude to improving and manipulating the production of a diverse range of commercially significant secondary metabolites. We will aim this goal in three different modules

1. Genetic manipulation of industrially relevant fungal strains in order to optimize the expression of homologous and heterologous genes. This includes experiments to develop a toll-box for the manipulation of fungal strains as well as the establishment of recyclable marker genes for the generation of transgenic strains devoid of foreign DNA.

2. Identification of novel regulatory factors involved in secondary metabolism and morphology. This aim will be achieved with biochemical (chromatographic protein separations) and genetic (transposon mutagenesis) methods.

3. Functional genomics - bioinformatic analysis of parallel data sets. Microarray hybridization analysis will lead to the identification of differentially expressed genes using data sets obtained from genetically different strains or cultures grown under different physiological conditions. Finally, association studies will identify novel genes mostly linked to secondary metabolism and morphogenesis.

The sum of all modules will contribute to novel scientific findings of basic research that can be transferred to applied problems such as the optimization of fungal production strains.



Sexual life cycle of the penicillin producing fungus Penicillium chrysogenum: Mikroscopic picture of yellow fruiting bodies (cleistothecia)

Cleistothecia

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