2.6 Opinions

Applying a mathematical description to fungal growth serves two main purposes. Firstly, it is able to validate the biological knowledge on which the mathematical descriptions are based. Secondly, it is able to quantify certain growth parameters. This feature is particularly relevant to optimisation strategies when the fungus is used in an industrial or biotechnological context.

This review has focussed on the vegetative phase of mycelial growth. Yet, this is in many respects the least interesting growth form. It is the ‘default’ growth mode of the fungal cell and any changes that occur in it are imposed by external forces (nutrients, environmental conditions, etc.). Of much greater biological interest is the way in which the ‘default’ growth mode might be altered by internal controls to generate the numerous differentiated cells that hyphae can produce and the native interactions between hyphae that cause them to co-operate and co-ordinate in the morphogenesis of fungal tissues. Although some attempt has been made to extend the vesicle supply centre model of apical growth (Bartnicki-Garcia, 1973) into 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional models of apical growth and differentiation (Bartnicki-Garcia, 1989; Gierz & Bartnicki-Garcia, 2001), we are not aware of any kinetic analysis of fungal tissue morphogenesis.

Recently though, we have developed a model that is able to simulate mycelial growth and branching in three dimensions (Meškauskas, McNulty & Moore, 2004a). Furthermore, it is able to implement negative autotropism, gravitropism and other tropisms. Experiments have shown that by adjusting key parameters before or during the simulation it is capable of producing a wide range of morphologies, ranging from simple circular colonies to cup-shaped structures and other shapes resembling fungal fruit bodies (Meškauskas, Fricker & Moore, 2004b). The model and a discussion of these results can be found by following this link to visit the World of Cyberfungi.

Updated January 27, 2017