Exploratory Research: Presence and biodiversity of uncultured fungi in Antarctic Dry Valleys
Fungi, as decomposers of organic material, have worldwide importance as primary drivers of the global carbon cycle. The present knowledge of fungal roles and capabilities is derived from cultured organisms. A large unknown commodity is the presence and biodiversity of uncultured species. Studies of uncultured prokaryotes have indicated that the culturable species may represent a minor and possibly functionally unimportant fraction of the community. The present study will determine the community structure of the uncultured fungi in soils from the Antarctic Dry Valleys. Because the occurrence of these eukaryotes in these samples is theoretical and problematical, the research is a high-risk venture. The research will be undertaken as a "project of opportunity" in conjunction with a field project conducted by the University of Maine (UM) to examine the biological role of yeasts in the Dry Valleys. The UM field team will provide soil samples for the U. Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) studies. Methods to examine uncultured fungal communities are made possible through the development of molecular techniques. UM will identify, by sequence analysis, the cultured species. RSMAS will identify uncultured fungi by DNA extraction from Antarctic soils, PCR amplification of ribosomal DNA with eukaryotic-, fungal-, basidiomycete- and ascomycete-specific primers. The resulting amplicons will be cloned and sequence analyzed. Based on positive results, the cooperative UM/RSMAS research will provide the opportunity to study the roles, functions and species interactions of previously unknown components of the soil microbiota in the Antarctic and other ecosystems throughout the world. This project will provide a research opportunity and training for a post-doctoral scientist.