LIFE SCIENCE

She used nearly a decade to help “mao children” recognize “home doors”


Photo courtesy of the semi-naked Humica seminudaa interviewee

Photo courtesy of short-branched orange crown shell Chrysocorona lucknowensis interviewee

“I’m reading your masterpiece, and I’m curious how you managed to make these fungi look so beautiful, it’s a work of art!” Pedro Crous, director of the Westerdijk Fungal Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, wrote in a recent email to Wang Xuewei, an associate researcher at the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (hereinafter referred to as the Institute of Microbiology).

Crous refers to a study recently published by Wang Xuewei in Mycological Research, which shows different morphological fungal fungi of the family HairyAceae, including multiple thermophilic species. Their spores are round or square or pointed, wrapped in curly or stretched fur, presenting the beauty of biodiversity.

Wang Xuewei’s research on the hairy fungus began with its “high value”. As her research progressed, she gradually discovered the inaccuracies and flaws in the fungus’s taxonomic system. Finding a home for these beautiful “little ones” has become her biggest wish in the past decade.

“Building Trust with Work”

In 2013, Dr. Xuewei Wang, a Ph.D. from the Institute of Microbiology who was ready to visit the United States, received an “unexpected” letter: Crous, then director of the former Dutch Microbial Culture Preservation Center (renamed westerdijK Fungal Research Institute around 2016), invited her to study the worldwide fungus of the family Hairyaceae.

This made Wang Xuewei excited. Reconstructing the fungal classification system of the family Hairyaceae, it was her dream.

During her doctoral dissertation, Wang Xuewei discovered the hairy fungus that made her “bright” in the process of isolating soil fungal samples. Not only are they beautiful, but they have great potential for application, and her research interest is natural.

However, there are still problems in the taxonomy of the family Hairyaceae that cannot be ignored – the subjective artificiality of classification according to morphology; the focus on the one-sidedness of asexual reproduction.

“There are genera under the family Trichophyllaceae, and there are species under the genus. The earliest morphological classifications suggest that the appendage hairs look similar to those of a family, but this superficial feature is very confusing. Wang Xuewei told China Science Daily.

According to this classification, ascomycetes have pores and all species with well-developed subordinate hairs are classified into the model genus, the genus Hairy Shell, while the ascomycetes are all classified as Clostridium shells, making these two of the largest genera in the family at that time. The proliferation of gene sequencing technology in the 1990s challenged this.

At the same time, since the discovery of the first species, the bulbous hair shell, in 1817, more than 400 species have been described, and at least 8 morphological classification monographs have been published, but without exception, they have only focused on sexually reproducing species. Molecular evidence suggests that at least 7 asexual breeding genera are members of the family Hairy Family, but their location within the family and their relationship to sexually reproducing species are unknown.

Just when Wang Xuewei, who had finished her doctoral thesis, was suffering from the lack of authoritative model strains and had to change her research direction, Crous, who saw her research paper, sent “a timely rain”.

CBS has established the world’s largest and most complete repository of fungi in the family Triculaceae. As early as the 1980s, Crous realized that there was a problem with morphological classification, and people around the world who searched for a solution to this problem have been unsuccessful.

Can an obscure young Chinese man shoulder this heavy responsibility?

In this regard, the attitude of the Netherlands Fungal Institute was initially discounted. Initially, they invited the team of Canadian furry expert Adrian Carter to work with Wang Xuewei to solve this problem, but they were rejected by the other party as “unequal qualifications”. Because full trust had not yet been established, the firm did not take out the preserved strains, but only allowed Wang Xuewei to enter the DNA database of the strains.

“As a Chinese, I must fight for breath and make it.” Wang Xuewei thought. Instead of getting frustrated, she took a different path and took a shortcut.

Based on the experience accumulated in China, Wang Xuewei found out the DNA of all relevant strains and began to sequence the work. Four months later, in a two-story research building in CBS, a genetic phylogenetic tree glued to A3 paper was laid from the second floor to the first floor— a huge “genealogy tree” of chisculous fungi. It clearly shows the errors and problems of the morphological classification system.

This makes experts such as Crous particularly excited. After discussion, Wang Xuewei began to use physical resources to study the model strains (the first representative strains of the species to be discovered and described). At the end of the year of public visiting, CBS “paid out of her own pocket” and asked her to continue to make hairy bacteria from indoor environments in different countries around the world.

“Building the trust of others with your own work is the strongest.” When Wang Xuewei recalled this experience, she laughed and said that the “not trusted” at the beginning made her go the right way, otherwise it would not be so fast to do from one strain to another.

After returning to China, Wang Xuewei’s basic research in taxonomy was also strongly supported by the Institute of Microbiology and the State Key Laboratory of Mycology. “As long as you make up your mind to do the work step by step, you will certainly be recognized.” She said.

Wang Xuewei in the laboratory. Courtesy of respondents

Help “hairy children” find a “home”

Using nearly 10 years of time, Wang Xuewei and her team conducted systematic analysis of more than 1,000 strains of bacteria from all over the world preserved by CBS, using comprehensive research methods such as multi-gene phylogenetic analysis, they corrected the errors of the traditional morphological classification system one by one, and helped these “hairy children” recognize the “home door”.

“The work is like sorting out a chaotic library, understanding the contents of each book, and finding the right place for each book to be accessible to future generations.” Wang Xuewei said metaphorically.

The traditional morphological classification system consists of 20 genera and does not reflect the evolutionary relationships between species. The modern classification system of the family Furcephalus established by Wang Xuewei’s research team contains 50 genera, of which 23 genera were established by their team. They also redefined or revised 15 known genera in the family and established a new family, the Sessporaceae.

For example, studies have shown that species that were originally included in the genus Hairy Shell according to morphology are actually scattered across 22 unrelated genera. The model species of the proto-Clostridium crustaceae , the Clostridium bassophyllum , has been shown to belong to the order Black Spore Shell , which is a fungal parasite, which is very closely related to the family Clostrididae. The other species in the genus Protosporium are saprophytic, scattered in 11 genera of the family Fullaceae and one genus within the sister group of the Family Clostrididae.

The study incorporated 7 genera of asexual reproduction into the hairy family, clarified the phylogenetic relationship between asexual breeding species and sexually reproducing species in the family, and gave the fungi of this family a complete life history.

The newly established taxonomic system also traces the “past and present” of the family Chaffidae, which is considered to be a monophyletic group (containing and containing only the common ancestors of the family and all of their descendants within the unit), and the 50 monophyletic genera within the family diverged from at least 27 million years ago. The thermophilic species belong to 7 different genera and separated from non-thermophilic species at least 30 million years ago to form independent lineages. In addition, the researchers also found a global species diversity of fungi in the indoor environment, containing 33 species, of which the most common indoor pollution species are bulbous shells (such as small black spots left by indoor walls or paper after moisture).

These research results subvert the morphological classification system that has been used for nearly 200 years, and establish a modern taxonomic system of the hairy shell family that tends to be natural and can reflect the evolutionary relationship between different genera and species, which has been published in journals such as Mycology Research.

Since von Arx, a mycologist at the Netherlands Microbial Culture Preservation Center, published the last monograph on morphological classification of the family Chordaceae in 1986, the taxonomic research of this family has almost stagnated, and only 4 new genera and more than 10 new species have been published in the past 30 years. The research of Wang Xuewei and her collaborators has activated modern taxonomic research in the family Phyllonory, and other researchers abroad have established 6 new genera from 2018 to 2021 alone.

These studies have allowed Wang Xuewei to be recognized at home and abroad in this field. Carter, who had refused to work with her, also became Wang Xuewei’s partner. He said that the relevant research was “addictive” to read, and even gave a review opinion on the paper within 48 hours of reviewing the manuscript.

“This series of high-level articles has shown a phylogenetic study of fungal resources such as the Trichoderma family that combines theory and wide application prospects, and has achieved gratifying results with systematic and significant innovation.” Zhuang Qianying, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, commented that the research team proved to the mycology community with perseverance, courage to explore, and perseverance in the scientific spirit that “there is nothing difficult in the world, as long as you are willing to climb.”

Image courtesy of Trichocladium acropullum

Photo courtesy of the interviewee of Chrysanthotrichum allolentum

“Meitu” helps resource mining

In addition to helping “recognize the door”, Wang Xuewei is also keen to take beautiful pictures of “Mao Children”. She re-described nearly 200 species of the family, accompanied by high-quality morphological images, many of which have been on the CBS Christmas card and wall calendar for several years.

The ascomycetes of the fungus of the family Hairyaceae vary in morphology and structure, forming bundles of ascomycetes in the fruit surrounded by spores with bud holes in the spores. In order to truly and completely show the morphological characteristics of the hairy fungus, Wang Xuewei can be described as racking her brains.

In order to present the stereoscopic effect, she will continuously take different layers, and finally superimpose the stereoscopic photo; in order to take a complete and clear photo of the ascomycetes with hairy spores, she gropes out a gentle heating method to let the fungal hairs gradually and naturally stretch under the lens; because the ascomycetes will dissolve quickly after formation, most studies only describe the ascomycetes and rarely see photos, she tracked the development process of the ascomycetes and found out the stage of the ascomycetes just formed to capture the ascomycetes…

Collariella bostrychodes interviewee photo courtesy of Screw Dark Collar Shell

Blood-colored shell Chaetomium cruentum interviewee courtesy of image

Wang Xuewei hopes that these beautiful maps can help those who need it to quickly identify related species in the hair shell family according to morphology, seek benefits and avoid harms, and help resource mining.

According to reports, most fungi like to live at a normal temperature of 25 to 30 ° C. At present, the cellulases produced by industrial fungi can only maintain high activity at room temperature, and the process in industrial production is very easy to be contaminated by other fungi, and the activity of these enzymes will decline at a slightly higher temperature.

“There are not many thermophilic species in the fungus, there are not more than 30 at present, and most of them are in the hair shell family.” Wang Xuewei said that the enzymes produced by these species show the highest enzyme activity at high temperatures of 50 °C to 70 °C, which is an important reservoir of new industrial heat stabilizer enzymes. ”

Chrysotchia is also a repository of cellulases and bioactive metabolites. So far, more than 400 kinds of secondary metabolites of different structures have been found by species in the family, most of which have biological activities such as anti-tumor, anti-malarial, antifungal, antibacterial, cytotoxic, and enzyme inhibitors.
Trichophyllus is also a common indoor pollution fungus, which can cause health problems such as allergies, a few species can directly infect the surface tissues of immune-healthy people, and individual species can invade the brain center, lungs and other deep tissues of immunodeficient patients, causing fatal infections. A few of them have been found to produce a precursor to carcinogenic aflatoxin, varietrorubicin.

Therefore, Wang Xuewei said that the hairy fungus will help develop a new generation of enzyme preparation production bacteria, improve the quality of human life and improve production efficiency.

At the end of the interview, she suggested that public participation in traditional taxonomy be strengthened. For example, CBS and other Western scientific institutions to promote the study of fungal taxonomy proposed public scientific research projects, encourage different families across the country to collect soil samples mailed to scientific research institutes for testing, if the isolation of new species will be named by the participants for them, not only to promote the development of new species, but also to popularize fungal knowledge, in one fell swoop. (Source: China Science Daily Feng Lifei)

Related paper information:

https://doi.org/10.3114/sim.2022.101.03

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.simyco.2018.07.001

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.simyco.2019.08.002

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.simyco.2016.11.005

https://doi.org/10.3767/003158516X689657



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