College of Food, Ag & Nat Res Sci
Brown rot fungi are prevalent in the boreal forest, and they are the dominant players for decomposing and recycling carbon sources sequestered in tree biomass. The carbohydrate-selective nutritional mode of these fungi, however, don’t allow them to consume all the formats of carbons in woodands, eventually leaving abundant of modified lignins in the soil as brownish residues. These lignin residues represent an important "recalcitrant carbon" pool in the forest ecosystem, but their fate still remains unknown.
In this research, this group is investigating the functional microbes as well as microbial processes involved in turning over the lignin components in the distinctive brown rot niche. The lignin-metabolizing microbes, including both fungi and bacteria, will be enriched and then isolated to pure cultures, and their abilities in degrading and metabolizing lignin substrates will be confirmed by single-species cultivation on lignin substrates and HPLC. Microbial communities in the extensively brown rot wood environment will also be studied using community DNA sequencing by targeting the fungal (ITS) and bacterial (16S rRNA) marker genes. By doing this, the researchers are aiming to understand the lignin recycling process initiated by brown rot decomposers and to discover the microbial resources that can be applied to industrial lignin conversion or bioremediation of related recalcitrant aromatic pollutants.