The World's Most Important Mushroom?

Even if you’re not fond of mushrooms on your pizza or in your salad, you might grow an affinity for their eco-friendly potential. Researchers at the University of Warwick are working together to sequence the genome (in simpler terms: figure out the DNA makeup) of what they say is one of the “world’s most important mushrooms.”

It’s name, the “Agaricus bisporus,” makes it sound like some rare species of mushroom found in the depths of the Amazon Rainforest, but according to, it’s actually just a common mushroom that you’d find at your local grocery store. The widely-available ‘shroom, however, is genetically blessed, say researchers, as it might be able to aid in the creation of biofuels, support the effort to manage global carbon, and help remove heavy metals from contaminated soils.

A release from The University of Warwick notes that the Agaricus mushroom family are talented “secondary decomposers” of plant material, breaking down tough materials that other fungi can’t handle. By sequencing the full genome of the mushroom, researchers hope to gain information useful in the transformation of plant material into biofuels. The mushroom also helps researchers understand carbon cycles…

“Carbon is sequestered in soils as plant organic matter. Between 1–2 giga tons of carbon a year are sequestered in pools on land in the temperate and boreal regions of the earth, which represents 15–30% of annual global emissions of carbon from fossil fuels and industrial activities. Understanding the carbon cycling role of these fungi in the forests and other ecosystems is a vital component of optimizing carbon management.” — release

That’s one talented mushroom, indeed.

The University of Warwick’s horticultural research arm — Warwick Horticulture Research International — will co-ordinate provision of genetic materials to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute in California for sequencing and will act as curator of the mushroom genome. The researchers expect to have a 90 percent complete genome within three years.

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