PerspectiveEvolution

Endless Rots Most Beautiful

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Science  29 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6089, pp. 1649-1650
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224682

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Summary

Fungal rots that decay wood were not prominent among the “endless forms most beautiful” that Darwin chronicled, but if he had known of the biochemical and evolutionary processes at work, they might have been. Woody plants fix an extraordinary amount of carbon during their lifetimes, building towering trees of decayresistant lignocellulose. On page 1715 of this issue, Floudas et al. performed deep phylogenetic sampling of fungal genomes to describe how white rot Agaricomycetes fungi have evolved an arsenal of enzymes to degrade lignin and unlock its stored carbon (1).