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Multiple Multi-Copper Oxidase Gene Families in Basidiomycetes – What for?

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      Genome analyses revealed in various basidiomycetes the existence of multiple genes for blue multi-copper oxidases (MCOs). Whole genomes are now available from saprotrophs, white rot and brown rot species, plant and animal pathogens and ectomycorrhizal species. Total numbers (from 1 to 17) and types of mco genes differ between analyzed species with no easy to recognize connection of gene distribution to fungal life styles. Types of mco genes might be present in one and absent in another fungus. Distinct types of genes have been multiplied at speciation in different organisms. Phylogenetic analysis defined different subfamilies of laccases sensu stricto (specific to Agaricomycetes), classical Fe2+-oxidizing Fet3-like ferroxidases, potential ferroxidases/laccases exhibiting either one or both of these enzymatic functions, enzymes clustering with pigment MCOs and putative ascorbate oxidases. Biochemically best described are laccases sensu stricto due to their proposed roles in degradation of wood, straw and plant litter and due to the large interest in these enzymes in biotechnology. However, biological functions of laccases and other MCOs are generally little addressed. Functions in substrate degradation, symbiontic and pathogenic intercations, development, pigmentation and copper homeostasis have been put forward. Evidences for biological functions are in most instances rather circumstantial by correlations of expression. Multiple factors impede research on biological functions such as difficulties of defining suitable biological systems for molecular research, the broad and overlapping substrate spectrum multi-copper oxidases usually possess, the low existent knowledge on their natural substrates, difficulties imposed by low expression or expression of multiple enzymes, and difficulties in expressing enzymes heterologously.

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          The genome of the basidiomycetous yeast and human pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans.

          Cryptococcus neoformans is a basidiomycetous yeast ubiquitous in the environment, a model for fungal pathogenesis, and an opportunistic human pathogen of global importance. We have sequenced its approximately 20-megabase genome, which contains approximately 6500 intron-rich gene structures and encodes a transcriptome abundant in alternatively spliced and antisense messages. The genome is rich in transposons, many of which cluster at candidate centromeric regions. The presence of these transposons may drive karyotype instability and phenotypic variation. C. neoformans encodes unique genes that may contribute to its unusual virulence properties, and comparison of two phenotypically distinct strains reveals variation in gene content in addition to sequence polymorphisms between the genomes.

            Author and article information

            University of Goettingen, Büsgen-Institute, Division of Molecular Wood Biotechnology and Technical Mycology, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Goettingen, Germany
            Author notes
            [* ]Address correspondence to this author at the University of Goettingen, Büsgen-Institute, Division of Molecular Wood Biotechnology and Technical Mycology, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Goettingen, Germany; Tel: ++49-551-397024; Fax: ++49-551-3922705; E-mail: ukuees@

            Present address: Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen, Institute of Food Chemistry and Food Biotechnology, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 58, 35392 Giessen, Germany.

            Curr Genomics
            Curr. Genomics
            Current Genomics
            Bentham Science Publishers Ltd
            April 2011
            : 12
            : 2
            : 72-94
            ©2011 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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