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Mold Genomes Shed Light on Soy Sauce, Sake and Sickness

Three Aspergillus genomes, including A. fumigatus, sequenced in large multinational studies

FRIDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- International teams of researchers announced the sequence of three Aspergillus genomes this week in the Dec. 22 issue of Nature, including Aspergillus oryzae, which is used in soy sauce and sake production; Aspergillus nidulans, the model laboratory mold; and Aspergillus fumigatus, the bane of physicians everywhere for causing allergies, asthma attacks, and death in immunocompromised patients. The sequence should help provide tools for the diagnosis and treatment of such infections.

To sequence A. fumigatus, David Denning, M.B., FRCP, of the University of Manchester, U.K., coordinated teams from the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, France, Brazil, Austria, Switzerland and Germany.

They discovered that A. fumigatus has eight chromosomes containing almost 10,000 genes, about one-third the number believed to be in the human genome. Around 700 of the genes were different than the related but less infectious mold, Neosartorya fischeri. However, many of the suspected virulence genes were part of normal metabolic and signaling pathways and so their role in infectivity will need to be teased out in future studies.

"These reports describe only the initial examination of the genomes, of course, and the sequences provide much scope for further analyses," writes Andre Goffeau from Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, in an accompanying News & Views article. The work could lead to better therapies for serious asthma, allergy and other conditions.

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