The fungus that came in from the cold : dry rot's pre-adapted ability to invade buildings

Balasundaram, S.V., Hess, J., Durling, M.B., Moody, S.C., Thorbek, L., Progida, C., LaButti, K., Aerts, A., Barry, K., Grigoriev, I.V., Boddy, L., Högberg, N., Kauserud, H., Eastwood, D.C. and Skrede, I. (2018) The fungus that came in from the cold : dry rot's pre-adapted ability to invade buildings. ISME Journal, 12(3), pp. 791-801. ISSN (print) 1751-7362


Many organisms benefit from being pre-adapted to niches shaped by human activity, and have successfully invaded man-made habitats. One such species is the dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans, which has a wide distribution in buildings in temperate and boreal regions, where it decomposes coniferous construction wood. Comparative genomic analyses and growth experiments using this species and its wild relatives revealed that S. lacrymans evolved a very effective brown rot decay compared to its wild relatives, enabling an extremely rapid decay in buildings under suitable conditions. Adaptations in intracellular transport machineries promoting hyphal growth, and nutrient and water transport may explain why it is has become a successful invader of timber in houses. Further, we demonstrate that S. lacrymans has poor combative ability in our experimental setup, compared to other brown rot fungi. In sheltered indoor conditions, the dry rot fungus may have limited encounters with other wood decay fungi compared to its wild relatives. Overall, our analyses indicate that the dry rot fungus is an ecological specialist with poor combative ability against other fungi.

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