Use Fungi for a Clean and Sustainable World!

Zhang Lab at a glance

Zhang's lab focuses on discovering and developing the untapped biodegradation mechanisms in microorganisms, with an emphasis on plant biomass-converting species. Microorganisms, including fungi and bacteria, have developed versatile strategies to degrade the recalcitrant lignocellulosic wood structures, and then convert the embedded carbons to cellular energies, structures, and metabolites. These microbial processes retain the “toolkits” pursued by human society to utilize the plant biomass-based substance for biomanufacturing sustainable fuels, chemicals, materials, foods, and others. Not only is it valuable to biomanufacturing, but understanding the biodegradation processes would also guide us in leveraging biodegradative pathways to develop alternative remediating methods for tackling emerging environmental or industrial pollutants. 

Zhang's lab combines genomic, system biology, biochem approaches, and CRISPR-Cas9-based genome editing for "phenotyping" research in wood decay fungi. We hope to unlock the distinctive genetic mechanisms used by fungi for decomposing woody biomass and for responding to partner organisms (e.g., counterpart wood decay fungi and bacteria) and biotic environments (e.g., woody carbon sources, minerals, and xenobiotics such as fluorinated carbon chemicals). Buring the fundamental scientific question of "What genes have made fungal species uniquely wood decomposers?" in mind, our research aims to discover the genetic codes of fungal degradation of lignocellulosic substances.  Also, with the unique genome-editing tools created by the lab, we will pursue utilizing the genetically engineered strains and processes for manufacturing bio-based materials and for developing low-cost remedial methods. Currently, the lab focuses on three main research areas, as below.

i. Genetic Toolkits in Wood Decay Fungi

ii. Fungal Degradative Systems and Their Uses in Biomanufacturing

iii. Fungal Degradation for Environmental Remediation