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Kingdom Fungi. The characteristics of fungi The evolution of the fungi Fungal classification Fungal life cycles Human-Fungus Interactions. The Characteristics of Fungi. Body form unicellular (yeasts) filamentous (tube-like strands called hypha (singular) or hyphae (plural)

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Kingdom fungi
Kingdom Fungi

  • The characteristics of fungi

  • The evolution of the fungi

  • Fungal classification

  • Fungal life cycles

  • Human-Fungus Interactions

The characteristics of fungi
The Characteristics of Fungi

  • Body form

    • unicellular (yeasts)

    • filamentous (tube-like strands called hypha (singular) or hyphae (plural)

    • mycelium = aggregate of hyphae

    • Some fungi are dimorphic!


    • sclerotium = hardened mass of mycelium that generally serves as an overwintering stage.

    • multicellular, such as mycelial cords, rhizomorphs, and fruit bodies (mushrooms)

The characteristics of fungi1
The Characteristics of Fungi

  • Heterotrophy - 'other food'

    • Saprophytes or saprobes - feed on dead tissues or organic waste (decomposers)

    • Symbionts - mutually beneficial relationship between a fungus and another organism

    • Parasites - feeding on living tissue of a host. 

      • Parasites that cause disease are called pathogens.

Heterotrophic by absorption
Heterotrophic by Absorption

  • Fungi get carbon from organic sources

  • Hyphal tips release enzymes

  • Enzymatic breakdown of substrate

  • Products diffuse back into hyphae


Enzymatic breakdown

Nucleus hangs back

and “directs”


Product diffuses back

into hypha and is used



Hard wall of chitin

Crosswalls may form compartments (± cells)


Grow at tips


Hyphal growth
Hyphal growth

  • Hyphae grow from their tips

  • Mycelium = extensive, feeding web of hyphae

    • Mycelia are the ecologically active bodies of fungi

This wall is rigid

Only the tip wall is plastic and stretches


  • “Fungus roots”

  • Mutualism between:

    • Fungus (nutrient & water uptake for plant)

    • Plant (carbohydrate for fungus)

  • Several kinds

    • Zygomycota – hyphae invade root cells

    • Ascomycota & Basidiomycota – hyphae invade root but don’t penetrate cells

  • Extremely important ecological role of fungi!

Ecto mycorrhizae

Russula mushroom mycorrhizas on Western Hemlock root

Mycorrhiza cross sections

Fungal hyphae around root and between cells


  • “Mutualism” between

    • Fungus – structure

    • Alga or cyanobacterium – provides food

  • Three main types of lichens:

    • Crustose lichens form flat crusty plates. 

    • Foliose lichens are leafy in appearance, although lobed or branched structures are not true leaves.

    • Fruticose lichens are even more finely branched and may hang down like beards from branches or grow up from the ground like tiny shrubs.

Lichen internal structure
Lichen internal structure

  • Lichens are nature’s biological monitors of pollution and air quality

    • Thalli act like sponges

    • Some species more sensitive to pollution

    • Which species are present can indicate air quality

    • Most resistant species can also be analyzed for pollutants, including bioaccumulation of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes


Fungi are spore ific
Fungi are Spore-ific!!!

  • Spores - asexual (product of mitosis) or sexual (product of meiosis) in origin.

  • Purpose of Spores

    • Allows the fungus to move to new food source.

    • Resistant stage - allows fungus to survive periods of adversity.

    • Means of introducing new genetic combinations into a population

Reproduce by spores
Reproduce by spores

  • Spores are reproductive cells

    • Sexual (meiotic in origin)

    • Asexual (mitotic in origin)

  • Formed:

    • Directly on hyphae

    • Inside sporangia

    • Fruiting bodies

Penicillium hyphae with conidia

Pilobolus sporangia

Amanita fruiting body

Hyphal growth from spore

Mycelia have a huge surface area

Hyphal growth from spore




The characteristics of fungi2
The Characteristics of Fungi

  • Fungus is often hidden from view. It grows through its food source (substratum), excretes extracellular digestive enzymes, and absorbs dissolved food.

  • Indeterminate clonal growth.

  • Vegetative phase of fungus is generally sedentary.

The characteristics of fungi3
The Characteristics of Fungi

  • Cell wall present, composed of cellulose and/or chitin.

  • Food storage - generally in the form of lipids and glycogen.

  • Eukaryotes - true nucleus and other organelles present.

  • All fungi require water and oxygen (no obligate anaerobes).

  • Fungi grow in almost every habitat imaginable, as long as there is some type of organic matter present and the environment is not too extreme.

  • Diverse group, number of described species is somewhere between 69,000 to 100,000 (estimated 1.5 million species total).

Kingdom fungi




Classification & Phylogeny

motile spores

Chytridiomycota chytrids
Chytridiomycota – “chytrids”

  • Simple fungi

  • Produce motile spores - zoospores

  • Mostly saprobes and parasites in aquatic habitats

  • Could just as well be Protists

Chytridium growing on spores

Chytriomyces growing on pine pollen

Zygomycota zygote fungi
Zygomycota – “zygote fungi”

Rhizopus on strawberries

  • Sexual Reproduction - zygosporangia

  • Asexual reprod. – common (sporangia – bags of asexual spores)

  • Hyphae have no cross walls

  • Grow rapidly

  • Decomposers, pathogens, and some form mycorrhizal associations with plants

Rhinocerebral zygomycosis

Kingdom fungi

Sexual zygsporangium with one zygospore

Asexual sporangium with spores inside

Life cycle of Rhizopus

Ascomycota sac fungi
Ascomycota – “sac fungi”

  • Sexual Reproduction – asci (sing. = ascus)

  • Asex. Reprod. – common

  • Cup fungi, morels, truffles

  • Important plant parasites & saprobes

  • Yeast - Saccharomyces

  • Decomposers, pathogens, and found in most lichens

A cluster of asci with spores inside

Basidiomycota club fungi
Basidiomycota – “club fungi”

  • Sexual Reproduction – basidia

  • Asexual reprod – not so common

  • Long-lived dikaryotic mycelia

  • Rusts & smuts –plant parasites

  • Mushrooms, polypores, puffballs, boletes, bird’s nest fungi

  • Enzymes decompose wood, leaves, and other organic materials

  • Decomposers, pathogens, and some form mycorrhizal associations with plants

SEM of basidia and spores

Mushroom life cycle

mycelium and fruiting body are dikaryotic

Mushroom Life Cycle

haploid mycelium

Hyphal fusion of haploid mycelia

N 2N N+N


Nuclear fusion in basidium

young basidia - the only diploid cells

Some fungi have more than one scientific name why
Some fungi have more than one scientific name – Why?

  • Teleomorph: the sexual reproductive stage (morph), typically a fruiting body (e.g., Morchella esculenta, Agaricus brunescens).

  • Anamorph: an asexual reproductive stage (morph), often mold-like (e.g. Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium solani). When a single fungus produces multiple morphologically distinct anamorphs, they are called synanamorphs.

  • Holomorph: the whole fungus, including all anamorphs and the teleomorph.

Deuteromycota form phylum imperfect fungi
Deuteromycota – Form Phylum “Imperfect Fungi”

  • Fungi that seldom or never reproduce sexually.

  • Asexual reproduction by vegetative growth and production of asexual spores common.


  • Single celled fungi

  • Adapted to liquids

    • Plant saps

    • Water films

    • Moist animal tissues




  • Rapidly growth

  • Asexual spores

  • Many human importances

    • Food spoilage

    • Food products

    • Antibiotics, etc.

Noble Rot - Botrytis

Antibiotic activity

Human fungus interactions

  • Beneficial Effects of Fungi

    • Decomposition - nutrient and carbon recycling.

    • Biosynthetic factories. Can be used to produce drugs, antibiotics, alcohol, acids, food (e.g., fermented products, mushrooms).

    • Model organisms for biochemical and genetic studies.

  • Harmful Effects of Fungi

    • Destruction of food, lumber, paper, and cloth.

    • Animal and human diseases, including allergies.

    • Toxins produced by poisonous mushrooms and within food (e.g., grain, cheese, etc.).

    • Plant diseases.


Classification of fungal diseases (mycoses)

Superficial, cutaneous, subcutaneous

Systemic and opportunistic

Poisoning and allergies


Azole drugs, amphotericin B, others

Cutaneous and subcutaneous
Cutaneous and subcutaneous

Dermatophytes: various genera

Cause skin and nail diseases

Referred to as tinea (worm) because of the ring-like appearance on scalp and skin.

Cause ringworm, jock itch, athlete’s foot, etc.

Limited to outer layer of skin

Sporothrix schenkii

Acquired from soil and plant material

Infects deeper into skin, but not systemic

Systemic mycoses
Systemic Mycoses

Generally acquired by inhalation of spores

Lung infections, may spread beyond into other tissues

Blastomyces (blastomycosis)

Coccidiodes (coccidiomycosis)

Histoplasma (histoplasmosis)

Most common in this area (Ohio and Miss. River valleys)

Soil contaminated with bird or bat droppings

Many people exposed with asymptomatic cases

Many test positive for exposure

Opportunistic infections
Opportunistic infections

Aspergillus (aspergillosis)

Variety of species, very common in soil, plant materials

Serious infections in immunocompromised

Allergies to A. fumigatus

Poisoning from aflatoxin from A. flavus

Candida (candidiasis)- normal microbiota

Cause of vaginal infections, diaper rash, thrush

Capable of infecting any part of the body

Dangerous in cancer patients, HIV infections, etc.

Opportunists 2

Cryptococcus neoformans

Inhalation of spores

Can infect many parts, but has predilection for CNS

Particularly serious in AIDS

Pneumocystis carinii

Very protozoan like, but is a fungus

Most cases associated with AIDS

Serious lung infections: PCP (P. carinii pneumonia)


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Contact lens wearers should not use ReNu with MoistureLoc, made by Bausch & Lomb of Rochester, N.Y., said Douglas Chang, M.D., of the CDC here, and colleagues.