Neurospora discreta FGSC 8579 mat A
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Photo credit: Namboori B. Raju, Stanford University. Neurospora discreta . Maturing ascospores of Kirbyville strains showing characteristic ascospore ornamentation. See, Perkins, D. D., and N. B. Raju, 1986  Neurospora discreta , a new heterothallic species defined by its crossing behavior. Experimental Mycology 10:323-338.

Neurospora is the premier model for filamentous fungi. Additional Neurospora sequenced genomes, combined with the existing N. crassa and more distant outgroup species sequences, will create an environment for genomic comparative biology that will be unsurpassed for studies of genome evolution. N. discreta, in comparison to N. crassa, represents the deepest divergence in sexual Neurospora species.

Neurospora discreta is distributed throughout western North America, Europe and Central Africa and is easily found after forest fires; it is becoming a premier model for fungal population studies, it has many of the genes important to plant pathogenesis, and Neurospora has been used as a model for the study of lignin decay by fungi.

Among the many new research area that will be enabled by access to multiple Neurospora sequences include adaptation of fungi that interact with forest trees; genome defense against mobile elements; evolution and genetic consequences of the widespread, but unique, fungal mating strategy pseudohomothallism. Forming a strong foundation for new research in evolutionary biology and ecology stands a large and strong genetic community with an NSF funded Fungal Genetics Stock Center containing thousands of mutants and more than 5000 wild type isolates from global collecting efforts.

Neurospora also offers numerous advantages for basic research in genetics, molecular, cell, and evolutionary biology. The genetic model species N. crassa has a sequenced 43 mb genome that contains 10,620 predicted genes - a complexity comparable to that of animal model systems such as Drosophila. Not itself a pathogen, it has long served as the model of choice for the estimated 1.5 million filamentous fungal species, which include important animal and plant pathogens. In terms of agroforestry, diseases of plants caused by filamentous fungi are guaranteed to become increasingly important and, therefore, will adversely affecting biorefining. On the positive side, filamentous fungi also are essential to the decay of plant material for the production of biofuels and bioproducts, particularly ethanol and organic acids.