Conclusions And Future Perspectives

Interactions between saprotrophic fungi clearly are of fundamental importance in ecosystem functioning. Along with EM fungi, these organisms lead in processes of mineralization of nutrients from dead organic sources; their relative abilities to capture a resource and defend it against other species are of paramount importance in the success of these species in a highly competitive environment. Research to date has illustrated the variations possible in interaction types and outcomes; some of the mechanisms involved in the interactions are understood, whilst others remain elusive. In the immediate future, there is much to be gained from the application of molecular methods to interspecific interactions, particularly using gene expression studies. Further research based on gene regulation studies, to include protein expression and changes in the fungal metabolome, will clarify the different mechanisms of interaction.

The use of molecular techniques in the dynamics of fungal ecology, rather than in examining fungal diversity per se, is in its infancy but effort is increasing. Questions that require attention include:

• Which fungal genes are up- or down-regulated during secondary colonization of resources, compared with primary resource capture?

• What patterns of gene expression are found during interspecific interactions?

• How does the proteome and metabolome alter following up- and down-regulation of genes during interactions?

• How are carbon and nitrogen (and other nutrients) allocated within the mycelium during interspecific interactions?

• Do the antifungal compounds produced by saprotrophic Basidiomycota function under natural conditions?

• Do changes in the secondary metabolite profiles of interacting fungi differ depending on the species combination?

• What is the site of action of the antifungal secondary metabolites?

Answers to these questions will greatly increase our understanding of the dynamics of saprotrophic Basidiomycota life strategies in ecosystem function.

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