Projet

Re-domesticating the termite fungus

I study the intriguing, obligate symbiosis between farming termites and their fungus, Termitomyces. The main goal of my research is to understand how the termites cultivate their fungus and regulate its reproduction: the formation of mushrooms. This knowledge will improve our understanding of the evolution and stability of obligate symbioses. In addition, it will help to find out how to grow the fungal symbiont in isolation in order to re-domesticate the most protein-rich mushroom we know, for human consumption.

Aim

To find out how mushroom formation of the termite fungus is regulated.

Approach

To be able to make mushrooms a fungus first needs to make enough fungal biomass. One part of my research focusses on what substrate could facilitate the formation of Termitomyces biomass. Then, if enough biomass is formed, the conditions need to be right to start mushroom formation. In the termite-fungus symbiosis the standing hypothesis is that termites suppress mushroom formation for the larger part of the year. I am testing this hypothesis. Finally, fungal mating types are important regulators of mushroom formation. I am making an improved version of the reference genome, as well as making a genetic linkage map to facilitate the location and study of Termitomyces mating type loci.

Student Opportunities

We are open to applications for thesis projects! We
have different thesis topics available, including projects with Substrate
Usage Analysis, Bioinformatics and Microscopy.

  • Thesis projects
  • Are you interested? Contact Sabine.Vreeburg@wur.nl