A group of researchers announced that they have fully sequenced the genome of the matsutake mushroom.
Researchers from the University of Tokyo and Kazusa DNA Research Institute in Chiba Prefecture said the achievement could pave the way for the artificial cultivation of matsutake mushrooms, a technology that has yet to be established.
Matsutake mushrooms are mycorrhizal fungi that grow at the base of red pine trees and share nutrients with them through their filamentous mycelium.
Unlike shiitake mushrooms, which use deadwood as a source of nutrition, matsutake have long been known as incapable of being artificially cultivated.
Japan is one of the world’s largest consumers of matsutake mushrooms, but domestic production plummeted to 39 tons in 2021, 0.3% of when it peaked at 12,000 tons in 1941.
This drastic decline has been attributed to continued high temperatures caused by global warming, which has negatively affected the growth of matsutake, as well as the expansion of the pine beetle’s habitat, resulting in a decline of red pine forests.
Matsutake is also listed as endangered on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The team spent about two years sequencing the genome of DNA collected from matsutake mushrooms grown in Nagano Prefecture, using an analyzer that can read longer sequences than previously possible.
As a result, they identified 21,887 genes and their order. Combined with the results from analyzing proteins produced by matsutake, it may be possible to determine the culture conditions necessary for artificial cultivation.
“By comparing the sequenced genome and soil composition, we can use the results to conserve pine forests where matsutake mushrooms can grow easily,” said Kenta Shirasawa of the institute.
According to Prof. Norifumi Shirasaka of Kindai University, the ecology of matsutake mushrooms remains a mystery, so it is very significant that the genome, which was only known in fragments, has been made clear.