Button mushroom reveals its secrets

9 oktober 2012

Researchers have unravelled the genome of our most familiar fungus: the button mushroom. Consequently, it is now clear why the button mushroom feels more at home on humic-rich breeding grounds than other fungi.

The research results are a boost to button mushroom cultivation: new varieties can be grown that are even more suitable for converting biomass and for human consumption. Researchers from the Fungal Biodiversity Centre (CBS-KNAW) made an important contribution to the study.

Agaricus bisporus

The Agaricus bisporus, better known as the button mushroom, leads a double life. It is not only a welcome addition to many meals, it is also important in nature for decomposing biomass on forest floors. For the first time, researchers from a large international consortium have mapped out the genome of two varieties of button mushroom. They then compared this genome with the genomes of other mushroom-forming fungi. The button mushroom turned out to have a considerably larger quantity of the genes that ensure the decomposition of lignin and related compounds – compounds that are present in high concentrations in humic-rich surroundings such as compost and leaf litter. This discovery confirms the huge importance of button mushrooms for the global carbon cycle.

Underground and above ground

The researchers, including Ronald de Vries and Alexa Patyshakuliyeva of the CBS, also demonstrated the difference between the underground and the above-ground activities of the button mushroom genes. In the underground part (the mycelium), the genes that ensure the decomposition of plant biomass dominate. In the above-ground part, the genes required for the growth of the fruiting body are dominant. The research has been published today in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Science (PNAS).