It is possible to slow down the increasing resistance levels of pathogenic fungi by making them believe that they are starving: hungry mushrooms, in fact, no longer devote themselves to reproduction. This is the original conclusion reached by a team of researchers from the University of Bath who identified unique receptors for the fungi that prevent them from reproducing.
Assisted by researchers from the University of São Paulo – Ribeirão Preto, the team thinks that these particular receptors are coupled with G proteins (GPCR). The latter would represent a real objective to literally slow down the evolutionary pathway of fungi, particularly pathogens, and therefore their virulence and their resistance and antifungal chemicals. They are also found only in mushrooms and not in plants and animals, including humans, and this makes them an even more efficient target.
Researchers were mainly interested in Aspergillus nidulans fungi. These fungi reproduce by recombining the parents’ DNA to create genetically diverse progeny, progeny that then spread like an oil stain in the environment in the form of spores. These mushrooms tend to reproduce only when they are well fed and in low light conditions. Mushrooms know how to adapt well to new environments and it follows that they can spread diseases and evolve their resistance over time.
Researchers have noticed that by activating the special receptors they have detected, they can make people believe that they are dying of hunger, and this lowers their reproduction levels a lot, almost to slow down their evolution.
Neil Brown, a researcher at the Department of Biology and Biochemistry of the University of Bath, comments on the results he and his team have achieved: “These receptors could be a way to inhibit fungal sex that can improve the sustainability of disease control. We spend large amounts of time and money on the development of resistant crops and antifungal chemicals, but there are examples where in the space of a few years the fungi pass the resistant crops or become tolerant to antifungals. Now we could slow down our arms race with fungal pathogens and thus increase the shelf life of resistant crops and antifungal where we have invested.”