The secret of truffle sexuality finally revealed!

The truffle is one of the finest ingredients that can be found in French cuisine. And yet, they come from the sexuality of the mycelium, the vegetative part of the mushrooms. A team of French researchers recently understood this sexuality.

What are truffles, a component of the finest dishes since Antiquity? No, it is not a fruit, nor a plant or an animal, but rather a mushroom with a more or less globular shape. We already knew that the truffle came from what is called the mycelium which is made up of a set of more or less branched filaments called hyphae found in the soil or the growing medium.

This underground sexuality was not yet precisely known to researchers, but this is now done. Indeed, Marc-André Selosse, mycologist at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris, collaborated with researchers from the University of Montpellier as part of a study published in the journal Molecular Ecology on November 22, 2016 In this publication, the secret of the sexuality of the mycelium is revealed and has been interpreted following genetic analyses.

Thus, the reproduction cycle of the black truffle Tuber melanosporum reveals a surprising fact: the great difference between the two individuals who mate.

“Genetic analyzes of 950 samples show that the truffle we eat results from the fertilization of a large female and a small male. The first covers a few square meters of land, living for several years in the ground, while the second is small and often only lives for a year. explains Marc-André Selosse.

The female is of a substantial size in order to be able to associate with the roots of trees in order to contribute to the formation of spores (kinds of seeds) while providing the flesh of the future truffles used to nourish and protect them. The male is smaller and weaker since the role of the latter only concerns the formation of spores. In addition, the black truffle is capable of hermaphroditism, an extremely rare case in mushrooms:

“It’s a matter of competition. When a spore hatches near an already established individual, the new mycelium adopts the opposite sex to have a chance to disperse its genetic heritage. continues Marc-André Selosse.

Beyond the scientific interest that this discovery arouses, it could be used to optimize the annual production of truffles in France. You should know that 40 to 100 tons of truffles come out of the ground each year (for an area of ​​10,000 ha) compared to nearly a thousand in the 19th century.

Sources: CNRS – Sciences et Avenir – Le Monde

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