Molecular phylogenetic biodiversity assessment of tropical African ectomycorrhizal fungi, with an emphasis on Russulaceae

The ectomycorrhizal Russulaceae family (Basidiomycota) comprises four non-corticioid genera, amongst which the milkcap genera Lactarius and Lactifluus. Lactifluus is mainly represented in the tropics and characterized by a high genetic variability and a conserved morphology, which is supported by the occurrence of cryptic species complexes and species with isolated phylogenetic positions. Lactarius has a more temperate distribution and is characterized by a relatively low genetic diversity and large morphological variation.

In this project we hypothesize that (i) Lactarius is a genus with relatively low interspecific genetic diversity, while the genetic diversity in Lactifluus is large and the genus is probably not monophyletic; (ii) Russulales are warm adapted ectomycorrhizal fungi with an African origin, which later diversified to Southeast Asia and the Northern hemisphere; and (iii) part of the Russulaceae ectomycorrhizal diversity remains hidden underground and that the environment and the microclimate select what fructifies.

This PhD-project aims to test those hypotheses, by (i) constructing a robust phylogeny of Lactifluus, to get a clear view on its phylogenetic status and unravel the relationships within the genus; (ii) reconstructing its biogeographical history; and (iii) revealing the hidden diversity of Russulaceae species and other ectomycorrhizal fungi using ectomycorrhizal root tip samples and metagenomics.


De Crop E., Nuytinck J., Van de Putte K., Wisitrassameewong K., Hackel J., Stubbe D., Hyde K. D., Roy M., Halling R. E., Moreau P., Eberhardt U. & Verbeken A. (2017). A multi-gene phylogeny of Lactifluus (Basidiomycota, Russulales) translated into a new infrageneric classification of the genus. Persoonia 38: 58–80.

Delgat L., De Crop E., Njouonkou A.L. & Verbeken A. (2017). A new milkcap species discovered in the gallery forests of West Cameroon: Lactifluus persicinus sp. nov. (Russulaceae). Mycotaxon 132 (3): 471-483.

De Crop E., Van de Putte K., De Wilde S., Njouonkou A.L., De Kesel A. & Verbeken A. (2016). Milkcap look-a-likes from gallery forests in West Africa: Lactifluus foetens and Lf. albomembranaceus sp. nov. Phytotaxa 277 (2): 159–170.

Njouonkou A. L., De Crop E., Mbenmoun A. M. , Kinge T. R., Biyé E. H. & Verbeken A. (2016). Diversity of wild mushrooms exploited in the Noun Division of the West Region of Cameroon. Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms 18(5): 387–396.

Li G.J., Hyde K.D., Zhao R.L., Sinang H., Abdel-Aziz F.A., Abdel-Wahab M.A., Alves-Silva G., Ammirati J., Ariyawansa H.A., Baghela A., Bahkali A.H., Beug M., Bojantchev D., Boonpratuang T., Bulgakov T., Camporesi E., Castilho B.M., Ceska O., Chakraborty D., Chen J.J., Chethana K.W.T., Consiglio G., Cui B.K., Dai Y.C., Daranagama D.A., Das K., Dayarathna M.C., De Crop E., De Oliveira R.J.V., de Souza C.A.F., Dentinger B.T.M., Dissanayake A.J., Doilom M., Drechsler-Santos E.R., Ghobad-Nejhad M., Gilmore S.P., Góes-Neto A., Gorczak M., Haitjema C.H., Hapuarachchi K.K., Hashimoto A., He M.Q., Henrique J.G., Henske J.K., Hirayama K., de Souza J.I., Jayasiri S.C., Jayawardena R.S., Jeon S.J., Jesus A.L., Jones E.B.G., Josefina I.M., Karunarathna S.C., Kirk P.M., Konta S., Kuhnert E., Langer E., Lee H.S., Lee H.B., Li W.J., Li X.H., Liimatainen K., Lima D.X., Lin C.G., Luangsa-ard J.J., Lücking R., Lumbsch H.T., Lumyong S., Maharachchikumbura S.S.N., Malibiran L.E., Marano A.V., Matsumura M., McKenzie E.H.C., Nguyen T.T.T., Niskanen T., Norphanphoun C., O’Malley M.A., Pablo A., Parnmen S., Pawłowska J., Perera R.H., Phookamsak R., Phukhamsakda C., Pires-Zottarelli C.L.A., Raspé O., Reck M.A., Monteiro de Azevedo Santiago A.L.C., Setti L., Shang Q.J., Singh S.K., Sir E.B., Solomon K.V., Song J., Srikitikulchai P., Stadler M., Suetrong S., Takahashi H., Takahashi T., Tanaka K., Tang L.P., Thambugala K.M., Theodorou M.K., Thongbai B., Thummarukcharoen T., Tian Q., Tibpromma S., Verbeken A., Vizzini A., Vlasák J., Voigt K., Wanasinghe D.N., Wang Y., Weerakoon G., Wen H.A., Wen T.C., Wijayawardene N.N., Wongkanoun S., Wrzosek M., Xiao Y.P., Yan J.Y., Yang J., Yang S.D., Young J.T., Yu H., Zhang J.F., Zhao J. & Zhou L.W. (2016). Fungal diversity notes 253-366: taxonomic and phylogenetic contributions to fungal taxa. Fungal Diversity – DOI 10.1007/s13225-016-0366-9.

De Crop E., Nuytinck J., Van de Putte K., Lecomte M., Eberhardt U. & Verbeken A. (2014). Lactifluus piperatus (Russulales, Basidiomycota) and allied species in Western Europe and a preliminary overview of the group worldwide. Mycological Progress 13(3): 493-511.

De Crop E., Tibuhwa D., Baribwegure D. & Verbeken A. (2012). Lactifluus kigomaensis, a new species from Tanzania. Cryptogamie Mycologie 33(4): 421-426.

Verbeken A., Van de Putte K. & De Crop E. (2012). New combinations in Lactifluus. 3. L. subgenera Lactifluus and Piperati. Mycotaxon 120: 443–450(8).