The Paleozoic origin of enzymatic lignin decomposition reconstructed from 31 fungal genomes

Science. 2012 Jun 29;336(6089):1715-9. doi: 10.1126/science.1221748.


Wood is a major pool of organic carbon that is highly resistant to decay, owing largely to the presence of lignin. The only organisms capable of substantial lignin decay are white rot fungi in the Agaricomycetes, which also contains non-lignin-degrading brown rot and ectomycorrhizal species. Comparative analyses of 31 fungal genomes (12 generated for this study) suggest that lignin-degrading peroxidases expanded in the lineage leading to the ancestor of the Agaricomycetes, which is reconstructed as a white rot species, and then contracted in parallel lineages leading to brown rot and mycorrhizal species. Molecular clock analyses suggest that the origin of lignin degradation might have coincided with the sharp decrease in the rate of organic carbon burial around the end of the Carboniferous period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Basidiomycota / classification
  • Basidiomycota / enzymology*
  • Basidiomycota / genetics*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genome, Fungal*
  • Indoles
  • Lignin / metabolism*
  • Peroxidases / genetics*
  • Peroxidases / metabolism
  • Wood / metabolism


  • Indoles
  • phyriaviolin
  • Lignin
  • Peroxidases