The Reference Culture Collection at the Center for Forest Mycology Research is one of the largest assemblages of primarily Basidiomycetous fungi in the world, containing about 12,000 isolates representing about 1,500 species. Approximately 3,500 cultures are haploid isolates.
Mycologists at CFMR continuously collect new cultures of wood decay fungi as they conduct research on fungal biodiversity throughout the world. These fungi are brought back to the Forest Products Laboratory and identified by experts who specialize in particular groups of organisms (i.e. corticioid fungi, polypores, and agarics). Cultures of the freshly collected fruiting bodies are made from spores, fungal tissue, or both. DNA can be extracted from the living cultures and studied using techniques from molecular biology. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs), and DNA sequencing are used to study the relationships among and between groups of fungi. Haploid cultures are used in crossing experiments to learn about the genetics of the fungi.
Information about the cultures is catalogued in an electronic database. Cultures are then frozen under controlled conditions and maintained in liquid nitrogen to minimize genetic change and maximize longevity. A second set of "working" cultures is maintained at 4 C in sterile distilled water.
The fungi in the culture collection serve many purposes:
- Mycologists around the world who work on the classification of wood-inhabiting fungi may obtain cultures from CFMR for inclusion in their studies. By expanding their sample size, researchers can make better decisions on species relationships and limits.
- DNA sequences from our known cultures can be used to identify unknown decay fungi of concern to forest pathologists and ecologists. Many of our cultures have dried fruiting bodies associated with them so their identification is more accurate than would be found with sequences from unknown sources that are available from GenBank and other internet databases.
- Scientists interested in biotechnological applications can obtain our cultures for their research. Wood-decay fungi are being studied as agents of biological pulping to break down lignin prior to application of chemical pulping agents in the paper industry. They are also being used for bioremediation for the breakdown of toxic pollutants in the soil, including dioxins and other organic hydrocarbons.
- Wood decay fungi are also a potential source of pharmaceuticals, including cancer-fight agents. Pharmaceutical companies have screened some of our fungi for their ability to produce chemicals that may be of use in medicine or other processes. Many opportunities exist for further work in this area.
Small numbers of cultures are given to researchers at no charge as a professional service. Industrial users are encouraged to purchase equivalent cultures through the American Type Culture Collection; we do not compete with private concerns. In some situations, we have entered into collection agreements with pharmaceutical companies that were interested in screening large numbers of our cultures to locate organisms with unique medicinal or biotechnological properties. Such agreements are still available. Please contact Daniel Lindner (608-231-9511), Culture Collection Director, to obtain or deposit cultures in the CFMR culture collection.