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New Phytol. 2009;181(3):719-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2008.02703.x. Epub 2008 Dec 8.

How to know unknown fungi: the role of a herbarium.

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1
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew TW9 3DS, UK.

Abstract

The development of a universal approach to the identification of fungi from the environment is impeded by the limited number and narrow phylogenetic range of the named internal transcribed spacer DNA sequences available on GenBank. The goal here was to assess the potential impact of systematic DNA sequencing from a fungal herbarium collection. DNA sequences were generated from a diverse set of 279 specimens deposited at the fungal herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (UK) and bioinformatic analyses were used to study their overlap with the public database. It is estimated that c. 70% of the herbarium taxonomic diversity is not yet represented in GenBank and that a further c. 10% of our sequences match solely to 'environmental samples' or fungi otherwise unidentified. Here it is shown that the unsampled diversity residing in fungal herbaria can substantially enlarge the coverage of GenBank's fully identified sequence pool to ameliorate the problem of environmental unknowns and to aid in the detection of truly novel fungi by molecular data.

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