the hibbett lab

at Clark University

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Current Research

Updated August '06

Research in our laboratory is centered on phylogenetic studies of Basidiomycota, with a focus on evolution of ecological and morphological characters. Recently, work in our lab has broadened to include molecular ecology, evolution of functionally significant gene families, and phyloinformatics. Current projects are listed below, with links to NSF proposal summaries and project descriptions. To learn more about the research interests of individual lab members, go to the People pages and also see our list of Publications.

Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life (AFTOL): Molecular phylogenetics of Basidiomycota

Our laboratory is part of the collaborative AFTOL project. Our partners are at Oregon State University (Joey Spatafora), the University of Minnesota (David McLaughlin), and Duke University (Rytas Vilgalys and François Lutzoni). Our part of the project focuses on analyses of multi-locus datasets across the entire Basidiomycota. This project has also supported development of the Teaching the Fungal Tree of Life site, outreach programs for high school teachers, the AFTOL classification project, and the mor project for automated phylogenetic taxonomy. Personnel associated with this project include P. Brandon Matheny (Post-Doctoral Fellow), Jason Slot and Andy Wilson (Ph.D. students), and many visitors and REU students. Proposal: Collaborative Research: Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life. (DSH, PI). Jan. 1, 2003-Dec. 31, 2006. DEB 0228657. Summary. Full text.

Phylogenetic relationships of Boletales

The Boletales is a major clade of Agaricomycotina that includes both mycorrhizal and saprotrophic taxa, with pileate-stipitate, resupinate, and gasteroid fruiting bodies. Manfred Binder (Research Fellow) is the PI on a current grant to resolve phylogenetic relationships and patterns of character evolution, using molecular data. This project has also supported our collaboration with Brian Dempsey, who is a teacher at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. We are also collaborating on this project with Roy Halling (New York Botanical Garden). Proposal: Toward a global phylogeny of the Boletales. (M. Binder, PI, DSH Co-PI). Sept. 2005-Aug. 2008. DEB-0444531. Summary. Full text. Read more.

Ecology and evolution of Calostoma

Andy Wilson is combining ecological and phylogenetic studies of the gasteroid bolete Calostoma. This work combines molecular systematics, molecular ecology, analysis of stable isotopes, and anatomical studies. Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Phylogeny, taxonomy, and ecology of Calostoma (Boletales, Basidiomycetes). (DSH PI for administrative purposes, A. Wilson, Co-PI). June 2005-February 2007. DEB-0508716. Summary. Full text.

Evolution of nitrate transporters in Fungi

Jason Slot is studying the evolution of nitrate transporters in Basidiomycota and Ascomycota. The history of these ecologically important proteins involves gene duplication and possibly horizontal transmission. Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Phylogeny and functional evolution of high affinity nitrate transporters in fungi. (DSH PI for administrative purposes, J. Slot, Co-PI). June 2006-February 2008. DEB-0608017. Summary. Full text.

Phyloinformatics: Automated phylogenetic taxonomy

The mor project developed as an offshoot of AFTOL. Our long-term goal is to create continually updated, maximally inclusive phylogenetic trees of Fungi, and translate them into classifications on an automated basis. Many students have worked on this project, including Henrik Nilsson (visiting Ph.D. student), and Moran Shonfeld, Marc Snyder, Mario Fonseca, Janine Costanzo, Brandon Gaytán, Ryan Twomey, and Pete Stein (undergraduates). Our colleague Jerry Breecher in the Math/CS Department of Clark also helps with this project. We published a paper describing this project in Systematic Biology, and there was a write-up about this project and the WASABI project (another AFTOL project) in Science.

Evolution of class II fungal peroxidases

Class II fungal peroxidases are extracellular enzymes involved in decay of lignin, which is a highly refractive component of plant cell walls. The complete genome sequence of the white rot basidiomycete Phanerochaete chrysosporium contains multiple loci encoding class II peroxidases, including five manganese-dependent peroxidase loci and ten lignin peroxidase loci. We are interested in understanding the history of gene duplication and loss in class II fungal peroxidases in Agaricomycotina, and its relationship to transitions in ecological modes (i.e., switches between decayer and mycorrhizal lifestyles, or between white and brown rot decay modes). Presently, we are amplifying class II peroxidase loci using degenerate primers. Later, we intend to use Southern hybridization and inverse PCR techniques to better characterize the genes and assess their copy numbers. This work is being performed by Ph.D. students Ingo Morgenstern and Shlomit Klopman. Proposal summary (pending).

Completed projects:

Phylogenetic relationships of cyphelloid and aquatic homobasidiomycetes. (DSH, PI; Manfred Binder, Co-PI). Sept. 2002-Aug. 2005. DEB 0128925. Summary. Full text.

Morphological and ecological diversification in the homobasidiomycetes: a molecular phylogentic analysis. (DSH, PI). Sept. 1999-Aug. 2002. DEB-9903835. Summary.