Neurospora as a Chassis

In 1958, Tatum and Beadle won the Nobel Prize for proving the one gene, one enzyme theory. The organism they chose to prove their hypothesis in was the crux of genetics at the time, Neurospora crassa.1 N. crassa is a model organism entrenched in scientific history that has been used in over one hundred years of research.

What better organism to introduce to synthetic biology than one that stands at the basis of genetics?

N. crassa is a suitable chassis. It is listed as a biosafety level 1 organism and it possesses a fully sequenced genome. N. crassa is an easily manipulated, multicellular, eukaryotic organism. However, the most distinguishing aspect of N. crassa is its natural ability to both degrade and use cellulose as a feedstock, a characteristic that makes it ideal for biofuel and bioremediation studies.2 The lists of resources relating to N. crassa are endless. Not only is there the Fungal Genetic Stock Center, which supplies strains, knockout cassettes, genes, and information, but a quick search of the University of Alberta library yielded over 7000 peer-reviewed articles alone. The research and dedication that science has had to Neurospora is clearly evident.

Neurospora's most difficult challenge in the face of synthetic biology was gene synthesis; but, as Team Alberta has shown in the past, the construction of genetic constructs doesn't have to be difficult (see Team Alberta 2010: Genomikon). We modified our genetic construction system to fit Neurospora's genes and proposed it as a standard for synthetic biology (see BBF RFC 82: Reusable, rapid assembly of genetic parts for Neurospora crassa).

Throughout the summer, Team Alberta has learned a variety of techniques, methods, and protocols (see Methodology) for dealing with N. Crassa. It has been an exciting and eventful learning curve and we are proud to be presenting N. crassa to the synthetic biology community as a viable and useful chassis.


  1. Beadle, G. W., and E. L. Tatum (1945) Neurospora. II. Methods of producing and detecting mutations concerned with nutritional requirements. Amer. J. Bot.32:678-686
  2. Davis, R. H. Neurospora - Contributions of a model organism. Oxford University Press. 2000. Pages 11- 18.