A case of viruses infecting fungi: Mycoviruses in Verticillium dahliae en Aarhus Universitet

Background. Viruses infecting fungi (mycoviruses) are widespread in nature, although we know very little about their diversity, lifestyles, ecology, and the effects they cause on their hosts. The majority of the known mycoviruses appear to have minimal observable effects on the fungi, and thus are asymptomatic, but both beneficial and detrimental effects have also been observed. Mycoviruses differ from other types of viruses such as bacteriophages, by not having a described extracellular route of transmission, and do not follow lytic or lysogenic lifestyles. Instead, their transmission happens via spores or hyphal contact. Notably, the vast majority of mycoviruses have genomes composed of single or double-stranded RNA, rather than DNA.

While the mycovirus research field is still emerging, recent developments in next-generation sequencing of DNA and RNA have allowed us to achieve considerable progress in understanding the occurrence and diversity of mycoviruses. However, several fungi have not yet been screened for possible viral infections. Verticillium dahliae, which is a soil borne pathogen infecting several species of vegetable crops, is one such fungus. Mycovirus discovery in V. dahliae would not only contribute to expansion of knowledge about the types of mycoviruses that exist but possibly could also serve as a starting point for using mycoviruses as biocontrol agents against this pathogen. This type of biological approach to manage fungal infections in plants is very attractive due to high specificity against the pathogen, and because it would be an environmentally friendly way to reduce fungicide use.

What we offer. The project focuses on characterizing mycoviruses in V. dahliae. Therefore, we are looking for a Master´s student with a background in microbiology, molecular biology or similar. The student will have an opportunity to get hands-on experience in fungal biology and culturing, RNA extractions, next-generation sequencing, and bioinformatics.

This work will be based at the Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University, which is located in Risø Campus in Roskilde (Frederiksborgvej 399).

Contact information. PhD student Zivile Buivydaite (zivile@envs.au.dk) or researcher Rumakanta Sapkota (rs@envs.au.dk).

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