| Introduction to Resource Center No. 11
Fungus/Mushroom Resource and Research Center
Fungus/Mushroom Resource and Research Center,
Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University
Hiroshi Otani, Director E Nitaro Maekawa, Professor
 Fungi such as mushrooms are a gold mine of genetic resources
Fungi constitute a separate kingdom in the biological classification
system and comprise an extremely massive group that includes
yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. The number of species belonging to
this kingdom is presumed to be a million or more. Fungi attract
attention because of their diverse functions; they play an extremely
important role in maintaining the natural ecosystem and participate in
environmental conservation by decomposing plants and animals.
Fungi also form symbiotic relationships with plants in which they help
them by exerting growth-promoting effects, increasing their tolerance
against environmental stresses, and by purifying environmental
pollutants. In addition, mushrooms are widely consumed as a health
food due to their excellent nutritional value. Recently, the medicinal
properties of mushrooms represented by their immunoactive,
antioxidative, antimutagenic, and anticoagulant effects have attracted
a great deal of interest. Thus, fungi such as mushrooms are a
repository of genetic resources with undiscovered beneficial
ingredients and functions, although this field has not been studied
 Establishment of the resource center
The relationship between Tottori prefecture and mushrooms was
initiated when Osamu Tsuneda, a graduate from the Tottori Agricultural
College, (a predecessor to the Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University),
established National Mushroom Society (later known as the Foundation of
Japan Mushroom Center) in 1947. Subsequently, the Tottori Mycological
Institute was founded in Japan in 1959 as an exclusive general research
institute for mushrooms, with extensive research being conducted in the
fields of taxonomy, ecology, genetics, physiology, breeding, and cultivation
Additionally, Tottori University established a collaboration with the Tottori
Mycological Institute at its Graduate School of Agriculture (Master's program)
and the United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences (Doctoral program)
in 1999 and has been energetically conducting collaborative research on
mushrooms. Through these achievements, the Faculty of Agriculture
established the Fungus/Mushroom Resource and Research Center in 2005;
the Center is aimed at strengthening the cooperation with the Tottori
Mycological Institute, facilitating the accumulation and conservation of
genetic resources of fungi with a central focus on mushrooms, and providing
specialization in advanced and fundamental researches for elucidating the
biological functions of mushrooms by using these genetic resources. The
center started with three research sections: Environmental Ecology,
Molecular Genetics, and Functional Development. The Research Section of
Genetic Resource Evaluation and Conservation was newly established
through a grant from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology (Fig. 1). The Research Section of Functional Development is an
endowed section established by Tottori prefecture and is aimed at
establishing new industries and rejuvenating the existing local industries.
Fig. 1. Organization of Fungus/Mushroom Resource and Research Center
 Conducted researches
The Fungus/Mushroom Resource and Research Center promotes
the expansion of genetic resources by further collecting and preserving
genetic resources of mushrooms in addition to the core resources that
were obtained from the Fungi Research Institute. Taxonomically, most
species of mushrooms belong to Basidiomycota or Ascomycota in the
kingdom Fungi, and approximately 20,000 species in 1,000 genera are
known to exist. Among these, approximately 3,000 species have been
reported in this country.
Currently, the center preserves approximately 1,000 species with a
focus on the genetic resources that were collected primarily from
various areas within the country. Although this institute ranks high in
the world in terms of the number of species preserved as genetic
resources of mushrooms, the actual number is less than 20% of the
species that are presumably distributed in the country (6,000?10,000
species). Thus, the Research Section of Environmental Ecology collects a large
number of mushroom species from various regions within the country
(Fig. 2), conducts taxonomic research on fungi with a focus on domestic
mushrooms, elucidates the regional flora by analyzing the diversity of
species, and acquires genetic resources (isolated strains) of each
mushroom species. Concurrently, it conducts research related to the
elucidation of the ecological functions of mushrooms.
Genetic resources of mushrooms are collected particularly from subtropical
areas that have remained rarely investigated. Cymatoderma lamellatum (upper
left), Daedaleopsis tenuis (upper right), and Ganoderma boninense Pat. (lower
left) are distributed in Ryukyu and Ogasawara islands in the country.
Calocera viscosa (lower right) mainly grows on a touchwood of conifers.
We aim to preserve the fungal genetic resources on the worldfs
largest scale both quantitatively and qualitatively by accumulating
information on genetic resources of various strains collected at the
Research Section of Genetic Resource Evaluation and Conservation, and
constructing databases of these resources that has large amounts of
information on each genetic resource. To achieve this goal, we are
conducting fundamental research on the separation and culture of a
variety of genetic resources including those of mushrooms that are difficult
to culture. Furthermore, we have developed a freeze-preservation method
using liquid nitrogen; this enables the stable long-term preservation of the
genetic resources of the collected strains (Fig. 3).
Another significant goal of the center is the application of the collected
and preserved genetic resources to various fundamental and applied
research fields. Fungi, including mushrooms, possess numerous functions.
Some fungi are useful for human consumption, whereas others cause
diseases in plants, animals, or insects. In addition, some fungi are capable of
decomposing harmful chemicals or synthesizing beneficial substances.
Research Section of Molecular Genetics investigates fungi that exhibit useful
functions and targets to elucidate such functions at the molecular level by
using instrumental analyses and methods based on molecular biology and
molecular genetics and develop technologies to utilize them.
Among the various researches, the Research Section of Functional
Development has attempted to further environmental conservation by
harnessing the potential of mushrooms for decomposition of harmful and
persistent chemicals, particularly dioxins. Moreover, the section conducts
research on developing a technology for the artificial infection of plants with
general-purpose mycorrhizal fungi for effective and inexpensive development
of mycorrhiza (tissues in which roots are replaced by fungi for absorbing
water and nutrients) even under natural conditions. This may promote the
growth of plants and endow or enhance water-stress tolerance (drought
resistance) in them (Fig. 4). The section has also undertaken the
development of plantation technology by exploiting the symbiotic relationship
between fungi and plants, enhancing the production of mycorrhizal edible
fungi, proliferation of rare plant species through preservation, and
establishment of a technique to revive Satoyama (Japanese traditional rural
landscape) by the advanced use of fungi.
Fig. 3. Left: Cultured genetic resources
of mushroom strains. Right: Genetic resources from mushrooms are preserved in a freeze-preservation container under
liquid nitrogen after gradual freezing in a programmable freezer.
Fig. 4. Left: A seedling of Pinus densiflora in which
Suillus granulatus, a mycorrhizal fungus, was inoculated has been extracted from a flowerpot after several months of growth.
Rampant white hyphae of Suillus granulatus cover the root filaments.
Right: Mycorrhiza of Suillus granulatus formed on the
roots of Pinus densiflora. The dichotomous "Y"-shape is a characteristic feature of mycorrhiza in pines.
| Information Technology Vol. 17
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Editor's NoteF An article regarding mushrooms, which are timely for
autumn, the season of the pleasures of the table has been submitted by the
recently established Fungus/Mushroom Resource and Research Center. It
was several years ago when I knew that the Tottori Mycological Institute
was established approximately 50 years ago and is an internationally highly
acclaimed institute. Fungi have been extensively researched in fields
ranging from basic to applied sciences and are essential genetic resources
for the life sciences. The Fungus/Mushroom Resource and Research
Center was recently established in Tottori University, and research has
been initiated by eight researchers of four divisions. Fungal research is a
highly promising research field in that Japan is at the forefront of this
research. I thank Dr. Otani and Dr. Maekawa for their contributions despite
their busy schedules. (Y.Y.)
1111 Yata, Mishima-shi, Shizuoka 411-8540, Japan
Center for Genetic Resource Information, National Institute of Genetics
Tel: 055-981-6885 (Yamazaki)@
(translated by ASL translation service and proofread by Sharoh Yip)