The GoMyTri project explored fungal and microbiological diversity in Europe and Southeast Asia to find new antibiotics and other biologically active substances. Consortium members comprised three organisations from Germany, Thailand and the Netherlands. These are internationally recognised centres of excellence for mycological, biotechnological and microbiological research. The work was undertaken with the support of the Marie Curie programme. Twenty nine young researchers from Europe and Thailand worked in the laboratories of different partner organisations to gain valuable experience. “Biologists trained in analytical chemistry, while the chemists learned microbiological or mycological techniques, and the participating biotechnologists learned new methods not established in their home laboratories,” says project coordinator Marc Stadler. Cultures isolated and screened Scientists conducted a systematic exploration of fungal diversity, employing modern molecular phylogenetic and chemo taxonomic techniques plus genome sequencing, together with classical microbiology. Research focused on endophytes (in particular Xylariaceae and Botryosphaeriaceae), invertebrate-associated ascomycetes (Cordycipitaceae), and marine fungi and fungal-like organisms. The team chose these particular taxa for their unique ecology or their production of interesting metabolites. “A good example is the invertebrate-associated fungi of the family Ophiocordycipitaceae, which includes the ancient traditional Asian anti-ageing medicine, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, and the producer organism of the immunosuppressant blockbuster drug, Tolypocladium inflatum, as well as the infamous zombie-ant fungi,” explains Stadler. According to Stadler, several new taxa were discovered. “The cultures are now undergoing screening for antimicrobial and nematicidal (for killing parasitic worms) metabolites and a number of bioactive metabolites have already been found, isolated and characterised,” he comments. These fungal cultures were mostly collected in Thailand and characterised using morphological and molecular phylogenetic techniques. Project partners disseminated data and results via 15 publications, internet-based public domain databases and through interdisciplinary workshops. International conferences helped to raise public awareness and attract industrial partners from both the SME sector as well as the pharmaceutical and agro-industry. Biodiversity conserved GoMyTri will facilitate the discovery and development of new organisms that can be used for sustainable biotechnological production. The fungal strains obtained can be used for wide-ranging applications such as the production of enzymes, commodity chemicals, biodegradation as well as environment remediation. Furthermore, the data generated on biodiversity inventories and the taxonomic classification of important fungal groups will be of great value to plant pathologists, ecologists and agencies in charge of conserving biological diversity. Results will help provide a range of benefits, from supporting basic research on fungal evolution and ecology to drug research and development of new biological control agents to replace hazardous chemicals currently employed in agriculture. “Some compounds we have discovered might have utility as lead structures for the development of novel anti-infective agents,” Stadler concludes.
GoMyTri, biological, Thailand, metabolites, biodiversity, fungi, mycological, anti-infective, taxa, drug, phylogenetic