Ms Dineo Mailula
My research project which I was introduced to it in my Honours year (2016, University of Pretoria) is about the identification and characterization of volatile chemical compounds (Fusel alcohols and fusel acetate) in fungi of the family Ceratocystidaceae.
These volatile chemical compounds are very essential in food, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and bio-fuel industries. Currently, large amounts of these chemical compounds are produced through artificial methods in most of these industries. However, these methods have quite a number of disadvantages such as high energy consumption and involvement of toxic catalysts.Utilizing plants and microorganisms for the production of fusel alcohols is advantageous as they produce these chemical compounds naturally. So far rose oil is known as a source for these volatile chemical compounds, but harvesting roses is labour intensive and time consuming hence resulting in a very expensive product. On the other hand, some fungi and bacteria contain biosynthetic pathways for production of these chemical compounds and the most studied is yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
We believe that fungi in Ceratocystidaceae family have a high potential of producing this chemical compounds. This hypothesis is supported by the fruity smell they produce. I searched the sequenced genomes of fungi in this family using yeast genes as a reference and can show that they contain the bio-synthetic genes encoding the biosynthesis pathway for these volatiles.