While some fungal species are commonly found all over the world, others live in highly specific biotopes. Some of this biodiversity can be explained by physical parameters, such as temperature, pH and water content, but another factor that affects the ability of the fungus to survive in a biotope is its ability to use the set of available carbon sources.
Many fungi use plant biomass as carbon source, either as saprobe, pathogen or symbiont. Plant biomass consists mainly of polysaccharides with varying amounts of lignin and protein. These polymers cannot be taken up by the fungal cell and are extracellularly degraded by a complex mixture of enzymes. A comprehensive classification of Carbohydrate Active Enzymes can be found in the CAZy database (www.cazy.org). This database now also contains CAZomes: the set of genes in a genome encoding putative carbohydrate active enzymes. Based on these CAZomes, the potential of fungi for polysaccharide degradation can be determined.
This FUNG-GROWTH database contains carbon source profiles of fungi using 35 different carbon sources ranging from monosaccharides to crude plant biomass. These profiles can be used to compare the relative growth of fungi on different carbon sources. These comparisons help us understand the biotope specificity of fungal species. In addition, they can be compared to the CAZome data to identify correlations between growth and genome content.
This first version will only allow comparison of growth profiles. We will continuously add more species to the database, focusing in particular on species with a public genome. Future versions of the database will enable clustering of the growth data and more direct correlations to CAZomes. At a later stage we will also add data on carbon metabolic pathways and regulatory systems involved in carbon utilization