Rotting Away: Getting at the Evolutionary Root of Wood Decay

Rotting Away: Getting at the Evolutionary Root of Wood Decay News NEWS Decay is a complex process in which organisms use a reper- “When people think about white rot, they tend to toire of enzymes to slowly exploit and ultimately digest their focus on lignin, but these results show that evolution of hosts. Fungi are master decayers of dead plant matter, includ- white rot involved expansions in diverse enzymes, not just ing wood. So-called white rot fungi have the special ability to those that attack lignin,” said corresponding author Laszlo decompose the tough, recalcitrant plant polymer lignin, using Nagy. enzymes that turn solid wood into a stringy, bleached pulp. The results have shed light on the complexity of white rot Now, professor Nagy et al. (2016), in a new publication and suggest that its evolution has involved a general elabor- featured in the advanced access online version of the journal ation of the decay apparatus, including numerous enzymes Molecular Biology and Evolution, have created a bioinfor- with as-yet unknown functions to further explore. These matics tool, called COMPARE, a novel method of phylogen- enzymes and the pathways proposed to be involved in etic profiling to correlate the evolution of a given phenotypic wood-decay could lead to improved technologies for biofuel trait with the pattern of gene family gain, loss and duplication production—an industry that relies on the very same en- in a set of genomes. zymes as fungi use for breaking down plant cell walls. In Next, they applied the strategy to the specific question of addition, their COMPARE bioinformatics tool is versatile the evolution of wood decay strategies across fungi to profile enough to apply to other studies looking to uncover gene each of the fungal species’s genomic innovations with a focus pathways associated with various traits. on identifying the gene families that enable white rot fungi to decompose wood. White rot fungi can completely break Reference down both the carbohydrates and lignin that make up the Nagy LG, Riley R, Bergmann PJ, Krizsa ´n K, Martin FM, Grigoriev IV, Cullen wood and bark, making them especially potent recyclers of D, Hibbett DS. 2016. Genetic bases of fungal wood decay predicted organic material. by phylogenomic analysis of gene phenotype coevolution. Mol Biol The research team, using data from 62 fungal genomes, Evol. 34:35–44. not only correctly identified the expansion of peroxidases necessary for lignin degradation in white rot fungi, but also ,1 Joseph Caspermeyer* detected a large suite of genes (409 in total) that show stat- MBE Press Office istically significant changes in copy number (duplication/loss *Corresponding author: E-mail: MBEpress@gmail.com. events) associated with the gains and losses of white rot wood decay. doi:10.1093/molbev/msw259 Blind as Bats: Bat Echolocation Study Reveals Key Evolutionary Trade-Offs with Other Senses Among the most fascinating evolutionary adaptations has comparative study of two sophisticated echolocating bats— been the development of echolocation in bats. But to de- the great leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros armiger)and Chinese velop their unique sonar system for exploring caves in the rufous horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus sinicus), named for their dark, what evolutionary tradeoffs occurred between their protuberances on their noses. When navigating, they are sen- other senses like smell, vision and hearing, i.e. to be blind sitive enough to distinguish their ultrasonic calls from the as a bat? Doppler shifted echoes (think of the sound of a passing train). There are two kinds of bats, Old World fruit bats and Their results confirm evolutionary trade-offs at work—showing echolocating bats. Old World fruit bats have no laryngeal an extensive contraction of smell (olfactory) receptor gene rep- echolocating ability, and navigate largely by vision with excel- ertoires and loss of a dozen vision-related genes in the lent eyesight, whereas echolocating bats rely solely on echo- echolocating bats. location for navigation. In addition, they re-sequenced the whole genome of 20 Now, using whole genome sequencing technology, a re- great leaf-nosed bats from four major distributed locations in search team led by Dong et al. (2016) performed a new China, and measured their genetic diversity and patterns of The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com Mol. Biol. Evol. 34(1):241–242 241 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Molecular Biology and Evolution Oxford University Press

Rotting Away: Getting at the Evolutionary Root of Wood Decay

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© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
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Abstract

News NEWS Decay is a complex process in which organisms use a reper- “When people think about white rot, they tend to toire of enzymes to slowly exploit and ultimately digest their focus on lignin, but these results show that evolution of hosts. Fungi are master decayers of dead plant matter, includ- white rot involved expansions in diverse enzymes, not just ing wood. So-called white rot fungi have the special ability to those that attack lignin,” said corresponding author Laszlo decompose the tough, recalcitrant plant polymer lignin, using Nagy. enzymes that turn solid wood into a stringy, bleached pulp. The results have shed light on the complexity of white rot Now, professor Nagy et al. (2016), in a new publication and suggest that its evolution has involved a general elabor- featured in the advanced access online version of the journal ation of the decay apparatus, including numerous enzymes Molecular Biology and Evolution, have created a bioinfor- with as-yet unknown functions to further explore. These matics tool, called COMPARE, a novel method of phylogen- enzymes and the pathways proposed to be involved in etic profiling to correlate the evolution of a given phenotypic wood-decay could lead to improved technologies for biofuel trait with the pattern of gene family gain, loss and duplication production—an industry that relies on the very same en- in a set of genomes. zymes as fungi use for breaking down plant cell walls. In Next, they applied the strategy to the specific question of addition, their COMPARE bioinformatics tool is versatile the evolution of wood decay strategies across fungi to profile enough to apply to other studies looking to uncover gene each of the fungal species’s genomic innovations with a focus pathways associated with various traits. on identifying the gene families that enable white rot fungi to decompose wood. White rot fungi can completely break Reference down both the carbohydrates and lignin that make up the Nagy LG, Riley R, Bergmann PJ, Krizsa ´n K, Martin FM, Grigoriev IV, Cullen wood and bark, making them especially potent recyclers of D, Hibbett DS. 2016. Genetic bases of fungal wood decay predicted organic material. by phylogenomic analysis of gene phenotype coevolution. Mol Biol The research team, using data from 62 fungal genomes, Evol. 34:35–44. not only correctly identified the expansion of peroxidases necessary for lignin degradation in white rot fungi, but also ,1 Joseph Caspermeyer* detected a large suite of genes (409 in total) that show stat- MBE Press Office istically significant changes in copy number (duplication/loss *Corresponding author: E-mail: MBEpress@gmail.com. events) associated with the gains and losses of white rot wood decay. doi:10.1093/molbev/msw259 Blind as Bats: Bat Echolocation Study Reveals Key Evolutionary Trade-Offs with Other Senses Among the most fascinating evolutionary adaptations has comparative study of two sophisticated echolocating bats— been the development of echolocation in bats. But to de- the great leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros armiger)and Chinese velop their unique sonar system for exploring caves in the rufous horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus sinicus), named for their dark, what evolutionary tradeoffs occurred between their protuberances on their noses. When navigating, they are sen- other senses like smell, vision and hearing, i.e. to be blind sitive enough to distinguish their ultrasonic calls from the as a bat? Doppler shifted echoes (think of the sound of a passing train). There are two kinds of bats, Old World fruit bats and Their results confirm evolutionary trade-offs at work—showing echolocating bats. Old World fruit bats have no laryngeal an extensive contraction of smell (olfactory) receptor gene rep- echolocating ability, and navigate largely by vision with excel- ertoires and loss of a dozen vision-related genes in the lent eyesight, whereas echolocating bats rely solely on echo- echolocating bats. location for navigation. In addition, they re-sequenced the whole genome of 20 Now, using whole genome sequencing technology, a re- great leaf-nosed bats from four major distributed locations in search team led by Dong et al. (2016) performed a new China, and measured their genetic diversity and patterns of The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com Mol. Biol. Evol. 34(1):241–242 241

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Molecular Biology and EvolutionOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2017

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