May 16: Shiitake workshop at the Duke Farm

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2024: “Best MASMC ever”

This year’s Middle Atlantic States Mycology Conference (MASMC) was a huge success with with over 120 participants and a record 50 presentations (20 talks/30 posters).   Most of the presentations were by students attending their first scientific meeting – the quality was outstanding.

This year’s meeting was special for many reasons, including a large contingent of former Duke students and postdocs who returned with fond memories of their glory days at Duke.  (Most of them came for Rytasfest, a separate event held the previous day celebrating 40 years of the Vilgalys mycology lab at Duke).  I was especially pleased to see so many new students come to this year’s meeting from smaller colleges and universities, as well as citizen scientists from area mushroom clubs.

Weather for Saturday’s talks was excellent, allowing participants to spread out over the French Science Center plaza.   Sunday’s morel foray in the Duke Forest was also big hit in spite of  advancing rain and cold front.  Thanks to Joe Heitman for building a fire which prevented some of us from getting hypothermia!  In spite of no morels being found (a serious problem in the Piedmont), we still managed to find over 20 species of interesting fungi growing around the forest.

Thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Jenny Lodge (VP of Research), this year’s meetings were also free to all who came.  Overall, a great success.   Long live MASMC!!

Below are some photo highlights of MASMC2024.  Thanks everyone for making these meetings so special!  Much love to you all, Rytas V

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April 19, 2024: Photos from Rytasfest

On Friday April 19, 2024, the extended family of the Vilgalys Lab descended on the Spruce Pine Lodge in Bahama, NC, for Rytasfest.   Over 100 former students, postdocs, and colleagues gathered in Bahama, North Carolina, to celebrate 40+ years of the Vilgalys Mycology Lab and the extraordinary science and culture of fungal biology that has proliferated at Duke and extended worldwide since Rytas arrived in 1986.

 The event coincided with the return of the Middle Atlantic States Mycology Conference (MASMC 2024) to Durham and the French Family Science Center.  This year’s MASMC was the largest ever, with over 120 participants and 50 talks and posters.

After the weekend’s scientific meetings, several members of the VLab continued to celebrate Rytasfest by attending “Lab Fishing Day”  for 3 days on Harkers Island.  LFD is another Vilgalys lab tradition that brings families and fishing together to enjoy the splendors of our NC coast.

Special thanks to the Rytasfest organizers and support team: Marc Cubeta, Tim James, Lotus Lofgren, Jessie Uehling, Jean-Marc Moncalvo, Khalid Hameed, Jake Nash, and Keaton Tremble.

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April 20-21, 2024: Mid-Atlantic States Mycology Conference returning to Duke University


APRIL20-21, 2024.  Save the date.
Registration for MASMC2024 is OPEN

Instructions for registration, abstract submission, and other details are posted at

Abstracts and posters will be accepted until April 10.  Please pass the link on to your colleagues and bookmark this page for further information.

This year’s Middle Atlantic States Mycology Conference (MASMC 2024) is being hosted this year by the Vilgalys Mycology Lab at Duke University, Durham NC.   Since 1979, mycologists up and down the eastern seaboard have convened at each other’s institutions every spring to discuss their latest research findings, catch up on the latest advances in fungal biology, share a meal, memories and meet new friends. The meetings are informal, providing students and postdocs the opportunity to present their research findings in a less formal venue than other meetings during the rest of the year.

Though loosely affiliated with the Mycological Society of America (, MASMC is open to both academic and citizen-scientists interested in all areas of academic and applied mycology.    Participants are invited to present brief oral and poster  presentations on their current research. especially encourage presentations by early career scientists.   An ample time period is also planned for poster presentations during the lunch mixer.

Registration information is on the MASMC2024 link.

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Congratulations to Dr. Jessie Uehling


Jessie Uehling successfully defended her Ph.D. yesterday.  Congratulations Jessie!

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Seminar by Tim James

Duke Mycology alum Tim James returned recently to present a seminar for the University Program in Genetics and Genomics.

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Khalid Hameed receives Presidential Service Award. Congratulations Khalid!

Congratulations to Professor Khalid Hameed for receiving the President’s Volunteer Service award.  Khalid received this award for his volunteer work with US AID Farmer-to-Farmer program to support mushroom cultivation in the developing world.  He and Van Cotter recently presented a summary of this work at the recent MASMC conference.

MASMC 2017 Poster – Mushroom Cultivation Support Farmer-to-Farmer Program

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Endosymbiotic bacteria of Mortierella: part of the core Populus microbiome

We recently published two papers arising from our first Populus endophyte genomes.  Here are some links along with the news release prepared for the DOE

Uehling J, Gryganskyi A, Hameed K, Tschaplinski T, Misztal PK, Wu S, Desirò A, Vande Pol N, Du Z, Zienkiewicz A, Zienkiewicz K, Morin E, Tisserant E, Splivallo R, Hainaut M, Henrissat B, Ohm R, Kuo A, Yan J, Lipzen A, Nolan M, Labutti K, Barry K, Goldstein AH, Labbe J, Schadt C, Tuskan G, Grigoriev I, Martin F, et al. 2017. Comparative genomics of Mortierella elongata and its bacterial endosymbiont Mycoavidus cysteinexigens. Environmental Microbiology …. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13669.

Li Z, Yao Q, Dearth SP, Entler MR, Castro Gonzalez HF, Uehling JK, Vilgalys RJ, Hurst GB, Campagna SR, Labbé JL, Pan C. 2017. Integrated proteomics and metabolomics suggests symbiotic metabolism and multimodal regulation in a fungal-endobacterial system. Environmental Microbiology …. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13605.

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98 Suillus X 10 Pinaceae


Prepare to mass-inoculate!

As part of our NSF-funded study on coevolution of mycorrhizal fungi in the genus Suillus with members of the plant family Pinaceae, we just finished setting up a spore-print bioassay pairing 30 Suillus species with 10 different host trees from the conifer family Pinaceae.    The seedlings will be harvested after 2-3 months to test for mycorrhizal specificity with different groups of confier hosts.  Molina & Trappe (1982) first demonstrated  strong patterns of mycorrhizal specificity (compatible/incompatible) for 27 species of ectomycorrizal fungi grown with 7 species of Pinaceae hosts.  In our experiments, we are investigating molecular-based interactions that result in mycorrhizal compatibility  between Suillus with different species white pines (Pinus subg. Strobus), hard pines (subg. Pinus), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga spp.), larch (Larix sp.) and spruce (Picea sp.).  See Liao et al. (2106) for more on molecular genetics of mycorrhizal compatibility/incompatibility!

Why 98 and 10?  That’s exactly how many seedlings (980) fit inside two of our R-chambers in the Duke Phytotron (plus uninoculated control plants).    Our team has collected spore prints and cultures from over 500 collections of Suillus from pine forests around the world.  It was hard deciding which spore prints to test!


–Molina, R., and J. M. Trappe. 1982. Patterns of ectomycorrhizal host specificity and potential among Pacific Northwest conifers and fungi. Forest Science 28:423–458.
–Liao, H.-L., Y. Chen, and R. Vilgalys. 2016. Metatranscriptomic Study of Common and Host-Specific Patterns of Gene Expression between Pines and Their Symbiotic Ectomycorrhizal Fungi in the Genus Suillus. PLoS Genet 12:e1006348.

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Suillus metatranscriptomics paper published in PLOS Genetics

oct_2016Our first  paper on compatibility/incompatibility in Suillus is finally out!  Suillus species are members of the bolete family that fruit in association with different members of the conifer family Pinaceae. Here’s what we report in this paper:
1. We tested 5 species of Suillus for ability to develop ectomycorrhizae on white pines (Pinus sect. Strobus) vs. hard pines (sect. Pinus).  Pairings between individual species of Suillus and Pinus were scored as ‘compatible’ or ‘incompatible’.
2. RNASeq analysis reveals that all of the Suillus species were able to germinate with  different pine hosts, but they (and their host) express different sets of genes during compatible vs. incompatible responses.
3. A distinct set of ‘core genes’ are expressed by both fungal and plant partners during compatible vs. incompatible interactions.

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