Despite occupying physically and chemically heterogeneous natural environments, the growth dynamics of filamentous fungi is typically studied on the surface of homogeneous laboratory media. Fungal exploration and exploitation of complex natural environments requires optimal survival and growth strategies at the colony, hyphal, and intra hyphal level, with hyphal space-searching strategies playing a central role. We describe a new methodology for the characterisation and analysis of hyphal space-searching strategies, which uses purposefully designed three-dimensional microfluidics structures mimicking some of the characteristics of natural environments of the fungi. We also demonstrate this new methodology by running a comparative examination of two Neurospora crassa strains, i.e., the wild type of N. crassa -- a commonly used model organism for the study of filamentous fungi -- and the N. crassa ro-1 mutant strain -- which is deficient in hyphal and mycelial growth. Continuous live imaging showed that both strains responded actively to the geometrically confined microstructured environments without any detectable temporal delay or spatial adjustment. While both strains navigated the test structures exhibiting similar geometry-induced space-searching mechanisms, they presented fundamentally different growth patterns that could not be observed on geometrically unconfined, flat agar surfaces.
Copyright © 2011 The British Mycological Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.