Coniochaeta sp. PMI_546 v1.0
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Coniochaeta sp. PMI_546
Photo credit: Courtesy of Khalid Hameed

Coniochaeta


Fungi in the genus Coniochaeta (Coniochaetales, Sordariomycetes, Ascomycota) grow as saprotrophs, leaf and root endophytes, and plant pathogens. Some Coniochaeta species, such as C. ligniaria, are capable of lignocellulosic detoxification with potential in the conversion of biomass into fuels and chemicals. In addition, when introduced to living plants they increase plant growth and reduce phytotoxicity. These fungi are also important in drug discovery. For example, the potent antibiotic coniosetin, which exhibits strong antibacterial and antifungal activity, was discovered in Coniochaeta ellipsoidea.

Asexual phases of the genus Coniochaeta were previously classified as Lecythophora, many whose sexual stage remains elusive. Many Coniochaeta species are still only known only from environmental samples (roots, leaves and soil).  The isolate (PMI 546) whose genome was sequenced here is an environmental isolate cultured from healthy roots of Populus deltoides (eastern cottonwood) growing in a natural riparian forest along the Yadkin River, NC, USA.

Phylogenetic analyses suggest that there are many undescribed fungal species within Coniochaeta, including PMI 546. Current studies in genomics of fungal root endophyte species such as Coniochaeta include (1) mechanisms by which endophytic fungi are able to establish plant symbiosis, and (2) function of these fungi in plant roots and biogeochemical cycling (http://pmi.ornl.gov/).