Rhizopus arrhizus: Fantastic fungi and how to control them

Who hasn’t had mouldy veggies in the fridge?

Rhizopus arrhizus is a fast-growing fungus that not only spoils our food and is found everywhere. It also has a huge biotechnological potential. It is industrially used for alcoholic fermentation, production of enzymes, bioremediation of soils and for fermented foods such as tempeh.

Rhizopus arrhizus

However, Rhizopus arrhizus can also act as an opportunistic pathogen and infect humans with a weakened immune system causing mucormycosis, an infection resistant to most antifungals and which often ends in fatality. Mucormycosis incidence is raising with little treatment that can be offered.

Previous work has shown that the cell wall of Rhizopus arrhizus is composed of ~20% of fucans. Fucans are fucose-based polysaccharides that are found only at very low levels in other fungal phyla and therefore represent potential targets to arrest Rhizopus.

In this project you will study the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of fucans in Rhizopus arrhizus. The aim is to unlock new ways to stop this fungus in its tracks towards spoiling food and infecting humans.

Rhizopus arrhizus

You will gain experience with several of the following methods:

  • Basic microbiology techniques
  • Nucleic acid extraction and quantitative PCR
  • CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing
  • Microscopy and image analysis
  • High Performing Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
  • Protein expression and characterization (enzymology)

The multiple techniques used in this project will equip you with the laboratory skillset crucial for a career in biological research.


Tagged in Honours projects - Agricultural science, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science: Other, Honours projects - Caterina Selva, Honours projects - Vincent Bulone