Volume 19 Part 1 Article 84: Re-domesticating Termitomyces fungi for human consumption

Volume 19 Part 1 Article 84
Year 2016
Title: Re-domesticating Termitomyces fungi for human consumption
Author: Sabine M.E. Vreeburg, Bas J. Zwaan, Duur K. Aanen

Roughly 30 million years ago an intriguing, obligate symbiosis arose between termites and basidiomycete fungi of the genus Termitomyces (Aanen et al. 2002; Aanen and Eggleton 2005). This symbiosis has most often been described as a farming system in which the farming termites cultivate their domesticated fungus for food (Mueller et al. 2005). We want to investigate how we could re-domesticate Termitomyces independently of its partners in order to cultivate the fungus for its nutritionally valuable, protein-rich and delicious mushrooms. By doing so, we will gain insight into the life history characteristics of this fungus and thereby deepen our understanding of its symbiotic lifestyle.

The first goal of our research is to investigate the fructification process of a single Termitomyces species that is associated with the termite species Macrotermes natalensis. As most Termitomyces species, this symbiont employs a horizontal mode of transmission. Within a nest the fungus is propagated by asexual spores found in nodules (spore balls eaten and subsequently secreted by termites). New nests are inoculated with sexual spores produced by fruiting bodies. Until now, it has been presumed that the nodules, which are essential for asexual propagation, are also the primordia of the fruiting bodies for sexual reproduction (Aanen 2006; Heim 1942). Our aim is to test whether nodules are indeed primordia of Termitomyces.

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