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MSA2017 ZyGoLabs

ZyGoLabs: Zygomycete Fungi in Teaching and Research – July 15, 2017

This year at the annual  Mycological Society of America meeting in Athens, GA, the ZyGoLife research team hosted the first ZyGoLabs workshop.  It was an all day affair that focused on hands-on isolation and observation laboratories that can be implemented in teaching and research.  We had a total of 25 participants including students, postdocs and professors, as well as those from industry and the general public.  The workshop was held in the Plant Pathology teaching lab in the Miller Plant Sciences Building at the University of Georgia.  A big thanks to the Department of Plant Pathology for hosting us and especially to Marin Brewer and Tina Jones for all their help.  The workshop was a big success and we plan on offering it again in the near future.  Here are a few photos of participants and the fungi we observed.

ZyGoLife workshop participants in front of Miller Plant Sciences Building.

Tim James lecturing on Stylopage, a genus of nematode destroying fungi in Zoopagomycota.

Participants busy examining zygomycete fungi.

Jason Stajich’s hand interpretation of zygospore formation.

ZyGo Sex.  ZyGoLife participant, Ton Tran, showing early stage of sexual reproduction in Phycomyces.

Poor little nematode trapped by Stylopage.

Grass roots stained to show arbuscules and hyphae of Glomeromycotina.

Germinating basidiospores of Basidiobolus shot onto agar surface from frog dung isolation.

The mycoparasitic Piptocephalis.

New Zygo genomes – March 2017 edition

The zygo-elves and the JGI have been hard at work at end of 2016 and early 2017 growing and preparing samples for sequencing. Following sequencing, assembly and annotation work at JGI the following are now available genomes – most were performed with PacBio so there are 25-400 contigs for most of these.

Good work Spatafora (Ying Chang) and Stajich labs (Derreck Carterhouse and Jericho Ortanez) with support from Matt Smith‘s lab at U Florida esp the work of Nicole Reynolds and Gerald Benny who isolated and/or verified many of these strains.

Mucoromyoctina ( Mucoromycota)

Zoopagomycotina (Zoopagomycota)

We are preparing the Tier II of species for the Early Diverging Fungi – 1KFG CSP with another set of 50+ zygomycetes and zoosporic fungi for the next 2 years.

These are publicly available but please contact the authors for any manuscripts which make use of these data prior to their formal publication as the groups who prepared these are working on their own analyses of these data related to phylogenomics, lifestyle and genome evolution.

ZyGoLife 2016 Workshop

ZyGoLife 2016

ZyGoLife 2016 Workshop was an all day affair. It was hosted by JGI on August the 7th and included 35 participants from 12 institutions. Each lab presented a 20-minute update on research directly related to the ZyGoLife project followed by 10 minutes of discussion. At the end of the meeting there was a 1.5 hour discussion on goals for the second year of the project. Particular discussion topics included Tier II sampling of genomes for our JGI CSP, prioritization of analyses and papers, development of Broader Impacts, and scheduling workshops for 2017. Our Tier II sampling will focus on unsampled genera of zygomycetes with particular emphasis on greater phylogenetic coverage of the Zoopagomycotina, Entomophthoromycotina and Kickxellomycotina. Our tentative plans for 2017 workshops include a collecting and bioimaging workshop at Arizona State and a teaching workshop at MSA 2017 in Athens, GA. Stay tuned for more information on these workshops.

And if we were not yet official, we took our group photos and JGI double helix.


ZyGoLife 2016 Attendees

Arizona State University: Robby Roberson, Karen Fisher

Boise State University: Merlin White, Michael McCormick

DOE Joint Genome Institute: Igor Grigoriev, Stephen Mondo, Alan Kou, Stephen Ahrendt, Asef Salamov

Duke University: Rytas Vilgalys, Jessie Uehling, Alejandro Roja

Michigan State University: Greg Bonito, Natalie Vande Pol

Oregon State University: Joey Spatafora, Ying Chang

The University of Michigan: Tim James, Kevin Amses, William Davis, Alisha Quandt

USDA ARS Peoria: Kerry O’Donnell

University of British Columbia: Mary Berbee, Benjamin Auxier, Anna Bazzicaluipo, Jaclyn Dee, Ludovic Le Renard

University of California, Riverside: Jason Stajich, Nuttapon Pombubpa, Sawyer Masonjones, Derreck Carter-House

University of Florida: Matt Smith, Nicole Reynolds, Katy Lazarus, Alija Mujic

University of Toronto: Yan Wang

Jericho Ortanez visits the Spatafora lab.

Jericho Ortanez from Jason Stajich’s lab at UC Riverside is visiting the Spatafora lab this week.  Jericho is an undergraduate in Biology and is working on the ZyGoLife project.  We have funding as part of the ZyGoLife project for students to visit different ZyGoLife labs, learn new techniques, and build their professional network.  Jericho is here this week learning our DNA and RNA extraction protocols.  He is working with Ying Chang, Jeff Beard and Nick Spatafora.  Great visit and we have really enjoyed having him work in the lab this week.

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L-R. Ying Chang, Nick Spatafora, Jeff Beard, Jericho Ortanez


Zygo genomes update Feb-June 2016

A number of genomes have been completed recently and made public as part of our collaboration with Joint Genome Institute (JGI). These data are unpublished and are being included in phylogenomic analyses by the ZyGoLife research consortium. We are particularly interested in resolving relationships among the zygomycete fungi and using a phylogenetic framework to test hypotheses of the evolution of fungi as they transitioned onto land and adopted nutritional modes reliant on plants and plant-based ecosystems

New releases since our last post include:



New Zygomycete genomes

A few genomes from our project were made public as part of the JGI collaboration in the past few months. Here are two recent releases of genomes from the EKZ clade (Entomophthoromycotina, Kickxellomycotina, Zoopagomycotina) and we expect several more to be public in the coming month.

We have incorporated these data and some ongoing assemblies into updated species phylogeny and will be working to release several more of these genomes.

Successfully growing a mycoparasite in pure culture!

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.

Syncephalis nodosa on host hypha
Syncephalis nodosa on host hypha
Syncephalis plumigaleata growing luxuriously on beef liver media
Syncephalis plumigaleata growing luxuriously on beef liver media


Liver media protocol

Ellis, JJ. (1966) On growing Syncephalis in pure culture. Mycologia. 58: 465-469