In the world of fungi, Aspergillus is an industrial superstar. Aspergillus niger, for example, has been used for decades to produce citric acid--a compound frequently added to foods and pharmaceuticals --through fermentation at an industrial scale. Other species in this genus play critical roles in biofuel production, and plant and human health. Because the majority of its 350 species have yet to be sequenced and analyzed, researchers are still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding Aspergillus' full potential and the spectrum of useful compounds these fungi may generate. In a study published February 14, 2017 in the journal Genome Biology, an international team, including researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, report sequencing the genomes of ten novel Aspergillus species, more than doubling the number of Aspergillus species sequenced to date. The newly sequenced genomes were compared with the eight other sequenced Aspergillus species. With this first-ever genus-wide view, the international consortium found that Aspergillus has a greater genomic and functional diversity than previously understood, broadening the range of potential applications for the fungi considered one of the most important workhorses in biotechnology. "Several Aspergillus species have already established status as cell factories for enzymes and metabolites. However, little is known about the diversity in the species at the genomic level and this paper demonstrates how diverse the species of this genus are," said study lead author Dr. Ronald de Vries of the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute in the Netherlands.
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