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    Re: Science Daily~Scientifically Rethinking Fungi's Abilitie

    Posted by Deborah on 3/18/10


    Thanks Sharon, that is an very interesting article. I
    suspected this but had no way to verify.

    I wonder if unleashing so many chemicals into the world has
    had anything to do with their increased rate of adaptability
    and transference.


    On 3/18/10, Sharon wrote:
    > "..this study we found fungi able to transfer an infectious
    > capability to a different strain in a single generation,"
    > he said. "We've probably underestimated this phenomenon,
    > and it indicates that fungal strains may become pathogenic
    > faster than we used to think possible."
    >
    >
    >
    > "..suggests that fungi have the capacity to rapidly change
    > the make-up of their genomes and become infectious to
    > plants and possibly animals, including humans."
    >
    > "...evolution of virulence in fungal strains that was once
    > believed to be slow has now been shown to occur quickly,
    > and may force a renewed perspective on how fungi can
    > behave, change and transfer infectious abilities."
    >
    >
    >
    > ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2010) Fungi have significant
    > potential for "horizontal" gene transfer, a new study has
    > shown, similar to the mechanisms that allow bacteria to
    > evolve so quickly, become resistant to antibiotics and
    > cause other serious problems.
    >
    > This discovery, to be published March 18 in the journal
    > Nature, suggests that fungi have the capacity to rapidly
    > change the make-up of their genomes and become infectious
    > to plants and possibly animals, including humans.
    >
    > They are not nearly as confined to the more gradual
    > processes of conventional evolution as had been believed,
    > scientists say. And this raises issues not only for crop
    > agriculture but also human health, because fungi are much
    > closer on the "evolutionary tree" to humans than bacteria,
    > and consequently fungal diseases are much more difficult to
    > treat.
    >
    > The genetic mechanisms fungi use to do this are different
    > than those often used by bacteria, but the end result can
    > be fairly similar. The evolution of virulence in fungal
    > strains that was once believed to be slow has now been
    > shown to occur quickly, and may force a renewed perspective
    > on how fungi can behave, change and transfer infectious
    > abilities.
    >
    > "Prior to this we've believed that fungi were generally
    > confined to vertical gene transfer or conventional
    > inheritance, a slower type of genetic change based on the
    > interplay of DNA mutation, recombination and the effects of
    > selection," said Michael Freitag, an assistant professor of
    > biochemistry and biophysics at Oregon State University.
    >
    > "But in this study we found fungi able to transfer an
    > infectious capability to a different strain in a single
    > generation," he said. "We've probably underestimated this
    > phenomenon, and it indicates that fungal strains may become
    > pathogenic faster than we used to think possible."
    >
    > Researchers from the Center for Genome Research and
    > Biocomputing at OSU collaborated on this study with a large
    > international group of scientists, including principal
    > investigators from The Broad Institute in Massachusetts,
    > the University of Amsterdam, and the USDA Agricultural
    > Research Service at the University of Minnesota.
    >
    > Bacteria use "horizontal" genetic transfer through
    > chromosomes and DNA plasmids to change quickly, which is
    > one reason that antibiotic resistance can often develop.
    > This capability was believed to be possible, but rare, in
    > fungi. In the new study, based on a genome-wide analysis of
    > three Fusarium species, it was shown experimentally that
    > complete chromosomes were being transferred between
    > different fungal strains, along with the ability to cause
    > infection. Various Fusarium fungi can infect both plants
    > and humans.
    >
    > In humans, fungal infections are less common than those
    > caused by bacteria, but can be stubborn and difficult to
    > treat -- in part, because fungi are far more closely
    > related to animals, including humans, than are bacteria.
    > That limits the types of medical treatments that can be
    > used against them. Fungal infections are also a serious
    > problem in people with compromised immune systems,
    > including AIDS patients, and can be fatal.
    >
    > According to Freitag, this new understanding of fungal
    > genetics and evolution is great news.
    >
    > For one thing, it may help researchers to better understand
    > the types of fungal strains that are most apt to develop
    > resistance to fungicides, and help crop scientists develop
    > approaches to minimize that problem.
    >
    > Fungal diseases are a major problem in crop agriculture,
    > and billions of dollars are spent around the world every
    > year to combat new and emerging fungal pathogens in plants,
    > animals and humans.
    >
    > On a more basic level, this study provides evidence that
    > the "tree of life," with one trunk and many branches, is
    > outdated. It should be replaced by a "network of life" in
    > which many horizontal connections occur between different
    > species.
    >
    >

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