Transcriptome and Secretome Analyses of the Wood Decay Fungus Wolfiporia cocos Support Alternative Mechanisms of Lignocellulose Conversion

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2016 Jun 13;82(13):3979-3987. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00639-16. Print 2016 Jul 1.


Certain wood decay basidiomycetes, collectively referred to as brown rot fungi, rapidly depolymerize cellulose while leaving behind the bulk of cell wall lignin as a modified residue. The mechanism(s) employed is unclear, but considerable evidence implicates the involvement of diffusible oxidants generated via Fenton-like chemistry. Toward a better understanding of this process, we have examined the transcriptome and secretome of Wolfiporia cocos when cultivated on media containing glucose, purified crystalline cellulose, aspen (Populus grandidentata), or lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) as the sole carbon source. Compared to the results obtained with glucose, 30, 183, and 207 genes exhibited 4-fold increases in transcript levels in cellulose, aspen, and lodgepole pine, respectively. Mass spectrometry identified peptides corresponding to 64 glycoside hydrolase (GH) proteins, and of these, 17 corresponded to transcripts upregulated on one or both woody substrates. Most of these genes were broadly categorized as hemicellulases or chitinases. Consistent with an important role for hydroxyl radical in cellulose depolymerization, high transcript levels and upregulation were observed for genes involved in iron homeostasis, iron reduction, and extracellular peroxide generation. These patterns of regulation differ markedly from those of the closely related brown rot fungus Postia placenta and expand the number of enzymes potentially involved in the oxidative depolymerization of cellulose.

Importance: The decomposition of wood is an essential component of nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems. Few microbes have the capacity to efficiently degrade woody substrates, and the mechanism(s) is poorly understood. Toward a better understanding of these processes, we show that when grown on wood as a sole carbon source the brown rot fungus W. cocos expresses a unique repertoire of genes involved in oxidative and hydrolytic conversions of cell walls.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Lignin / metabolism*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Wolfiporia / chemistry*
  • Wolfiporia / genetics*
  • Wolfiporia / growth & development
  • Wolfiporia / metabolism


  • Culture Media
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Proteome
  • lignocellulose
  • Carbon
  • Lignin

Grants and funding

This work was supported in part by the National Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State, Research Education and Extension Service grant 2007-35504-18257, to D.C. and R.A.B.