Docent Andriy Kovalchuk
Fungi play a crucial role in the functioning of land ecosystems, despite the fact that most of them remain unnoticed by an amateur observer. During the evolution, fungi have developed a wide variety of strategies of how to receive nutrients from their environment, ranging from a decay of dead organic material (saprotrophy) to symbiosis with plants (mycorrhiza-forming) and parasitism. We want to understand how some fungi became aggressive plant parasites while others remained peaceful saprotrophs feeding on plant litter. Using modern bioinformatics and transcriptomics approaches, we are going to identify genes that are required by pathogenic fungi to infect their hosts. As a model system, we are using the fungus Heterobasidion annosum causing root and butt rot of conifer trees. Results of our project will contribute to the development of more efficient strategies to control the spread of H. annosum infection.