Mucor circinelloides CBS277.49 v2.0
Photo of Mucor circinelloides CBS277.49 v2.0
Coloured scanning electron microscope image of Mucor circinelloides sporangiophores (courtesy of F.J. Nicolas)

Mucor circinelloides is a dimorphic fungus belonging to the Zygomycete class that has been studied in the laboratory for 35 years. Researchers have been attracted to it mainly because of its dimorphism, light responses, high capacity for accumulating lipids, anaerobic and aerobic production of ethanol and gene silencing mechanisms (RNAi). In the last few years the rate of knowledge acquisition in these fields has grown exponentially, and it is expected to grow even more in the future, due to the increasing number of molecular tools available to manipulate its genome, which allows the functional analysis of its genes. Mucor circinelloides is the fungus with the broadest molecular tool repertoire within the Zygomycota phylum. This includes genetic transformation using self-replicative plasmids, integrative transformation mediated by Agrobacterium, generation of knockout mutants and use of RNAi-based procedures to suppress gene function.

Mucor circinelloides has also a biotechnological interest as a source of carotenes and lipids because it accumulates high levels of these compounds in the mycelium, has a good biomass production during submerged batch cultivation in bioreactors, it is able to use a wide range of carbon sources and it has demonstrated capacity to grow in industrial stirred-tank fermenters. Nowadays, Mucor circinelloides lipids have gained a special attention because they can be easily converted into biodiesel, suggesting that Mucor biomass could be an alternative to plant oils as a feedstock for biodiesel production.

The Mucor genome sequence will help the genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic approaches that will complement the current research carried out with this organism. It will help the identification and study of genes and proteins that participate in the processes described above and in the production of lipids useful for biodiesel production. In addition, the Mucor genome sequence will provide key information about the evolution of zygomycetes and other fungi.

Genome Reference(s)