Species of Syncephalis (Zoopagales) are generally considered to be obligate, haustorial, biotrophic parasites of other zygomycetous fungi (Mortierellomycotina and Mucoromycotina) in nature. They can be commonly isolated from environmental soil and dung substrates and maintained in dual cultures in the lab. However, Ellis (1966) developed a medium capable of growing several Syncephalis species in pure culture without their host fungi.
The secret ingredient is beef liver. Some species of Syncephalis can be inoculated onto a cube of liver and grow as luxuriously as on their Mucoralean host fungi. Here in the Smith lab we were able to replicate Ellis’s success and grow four different species of Syncephalis on beef liver media.
Growing Syncephalis without its host is more important than ever. In the age of whole genome sequencing, acquiring enough pure tissue and DNA remains a technical limitation for many organisms, particularly when they grow biotrophically in or on a host.
Ellis, JJ. (1966) On growing Syncephalis in pure culture. Mycologia. 58: 465-469