Understanding Morel Mushrooms: Genome Insights and Evolutionary Adaptations

Jim Crocker
28th May, 2024

Understanding Morel Mushrooms: Genome Insights and Evolutionary Adaptations

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study focused on Morchella spongiola, a valuable mushroom found in the Qilian Mountains of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
  • Researchers obtained a high-quality genome sequence of M. spongiola, revealing it has 9,775 protein-coding genes
  • Comparative analysis showed M. spongiola is a unique species, not a synonym of M. vulgaris, and diverged from black morels around 43 million years ago
Morchella spongiola, a highly prized mushroom known for its culinary and medicinal value, is a dominant macrofungus in the Qilian Mountains of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau subkingdoms (QTPs). Despite its significance, the understanding of M. spongiola has been limited, particularly in terms of its taxonomy. A recent study by researchers at Qinghai University aimed to address this gap by providing a comprehensive analysis of M. spongiola through micromorphology, molecular data, genomics, and comparative genomics[1]. The study successfully obtained a high-quality chromosome-level reference genome of M. spongiola M12-10 using advanced sequencing technologies, including PacBio HiFi and Illumina sequencing. The genome was approximately 57.1 Mb in size and contained 9,775 protein-coding genes. This genomic data is crucial as it offers a foundation for future research on functional gene identification, germplasm resource management, and molecular breeding efforts. Comparative genome analysis revealed both conservation and unique characteristics between M. spongiola M12-10 and 32 other Morchella species. Molecular phylogenetic analysis indicated that M. spongiola M12-10 is closely related to M. prava/Mes-7, which is found in sandy soil near rivers. The study estimated that M. spongiola diverged from black morels around 43.06 million years ago (Mya) and from M. prava/Mes-7 approximately 12.85 Mya during the Miocene epoch. This timeline aligns with significant geological activities in the QTPs during the Neogene period. The findings of this study clarify that M. spongiola is a unique species rather than a synonym of M. vulgaris/Mes-5, characterized by its distinctive grey-brown sponge-like ascomata. This distinction is important for accurate taxonomy and further research in the field. Previous studies have highlighted the importance of Morchella species for their nutritional and medicinal properties. For instance, Morchella sextelata has been shown to contain a novel polysaccharide (MSP-1) with significant immunomodulatory activities[2]. Another study demonstrated that Morchella extracellular vesicles have anti-inflammatory effects, reducing the production of nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) in a model of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammation[3]. These findings underscore the potential health benefits of Morchella species, including M. spongiola. The study by Qinghai University not only provides a clearer understanding of M. spongiola's taxonomy but also contributes to the broader knowledge of Morchella species' evolutionary history. Previous research has shown that Morchella species have a Laurasian distribution and exhibit strong biogeographic structure and cryptic speciation[4]. The new genomic data from M. spongiola adds to this understanding by offering insights into the species' evolutionary divergence and adaptation to the unique environment of the QTPs. In conclusion, the comprehensive genomic analysis of M. spongiola conducted by Qinghai University represents a significant advancement in the study of this valuable mushroom. The high-quality genome sequence provides a crucial resource for future research, aiding in the identification of functional genes and the management of germplasm resources. This study not only clarifies the taxonomy of M. spongiola but also enhances our understanding of the evolutionary history and biogeography of Morchella species.



Main Study

1) Genome assembly of M. spongiola and comparative genomics of the genus Morchella provide initial insights into taxonomy and adaptive evolution

Published 27th May, 2024


Related Studies

2) Purification, structural characterization and immunomodulatory activities of a polysaccharide from the fruiting body of Morchella sextelata.


3) Anti-inflammatory effects of extracellular vesicles from Morchella on LPS-stimulated RAW264.7 cells via the ROS-mediated p38 MAPK signaling pathway.


4) Phylogeny and historical biogeography of true morels (Morchella) reveals an early Cretaceous origin and high continental endemism and provincialism in the Holarctic.


Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙