Another fungus you could learn to love

There's more to fungus than even your sophisticated palate could discern. There's xylose metabolism, even potential wealth.

Xylose is sugar found in hardwoods and agricultural leftovers. U.S. government genetics researchers and forestry experts are working on getting a fungus known as Pichia stipitis to reveal the secret of how it turns the abundant xylose in wood fiber, grass clippings or paper into ethanol. That in turn is a potentially popular alternative fuel to replace petroleum derivatives from diesel to kerosene to gasoline.

Currently Pichia stipitis is found primarily in the guts of insects, like termites, that ingest wood fibers. Geneticists are studying how the fungus works genetically so they can transfer that xylose metabolism ability to other nanoplants, like maybe brewer's yeast. So the race is on.

Can the fungus crowd reach its goal before the bacterium backers? Untold global wealth from the future ethanol industry awaits the winner.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Harry Fuller escaped from television work to be executive editor at CNET


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