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Why a Mutant Fungus is Blind

Armen Hareyan's picture


The gene whose mutation renders a fungus "blind" to light has been discovered by Duke University Medical Center researchers. They said their finding - which solves a genetic mystery four decades old - could give basic insights into how organisms sense and respond to environmental signals. These signals include not just light, but also gravity, touch and chemicals.

The researchers identified the mutations in a particular strain of a filamentous fungus called Phycomyces, which scientists use to study sensory perception. The strain has an unidentified mutation called madA, which causes defects in phototropism, the growth of the fungus toward light.

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The discovery of the specific mutated gene underlying the madA defect could signal a turning point in the field of sensory research, providing an avenue for other researchers to join in the pursuit of the remaining nine genes in the mad family, said the investigators.

The results of the Duke research appeared this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to be published in print in the March 21 issue of the journal. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

"These organisms can sense all kinds of environmental stimuli