We originally intended to use Alexander Fleming's mushroom for various experiments, butTo our surprise, we realized that no one had sequenced the genome of this original Penicillium, despite its historical significance in the field.
Timothy Barraclough, study lead author
A team of scientists has re-grown the originalFleming's Penicillium from a frozen sample stored in the culture collection at CABI and recovered DNA for sequencing. The resulting genome was compared with the previously published genomes of two commercial Penicillium strains used later in the United States.
The researchers studied two types of genes: those that code for enzymes that the fungus uses to produce penicillin; and those that regulate enzymes, for example, by controlling their amount. In both the UK and US strains, the regulatory genes shared the same genetic code, but the US strains had more copies of the regulatory genes, which helped these strains produce more penicillin.
However, the genes encoding penicillin-producingenzymes differed between strains isolated in the UK and USA. The researchers say this shows that wild Penicilliums in the UK and US have evolved naturally to produce slightly different versions of these enzymes.
Molds like Penicillium produceantibiotics to fight microbes and are forced to evolve as microbes also develop new defenses. The UK and US strains likely evolved differently in order to adapt to local microbes.
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