Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Ira Simet


Thermomyces lanuginosus is a species of fungus with ever-expanding applications in the world of industrial chemistry. Primarily, this fungus is known for producing enzymes with a wide variety of industrial uses. These enzymes include xylanases, which are produced by T. lanuginosus in greater amounts than any other fungus (Mchunu et al., 2013). Xylanase is a degradative enzyme that breaks down hemicellulose, a key component of plant cell walls (Singh et al., 2003). Due to its stability over broad temperature and pH ranges, this enzyme serves many industrial purposes, primarily as a food additive and an alternative to chlorinecontaining compounds in pulp bleaching (Singh et al., 2003). T. lanuginosus is also a large producer of chitinases, another class of enzymes with widespread industrial applications. Chitinases are widely used in agriculture as an alternative to chemical insecticides. These enzymes protect plants from chitin-containing pathogens, and unlike typical insecticides, they are not compromised by resistance over time (Khan et al., 2015). These industrial applications, along with many others, show the influence that T. lanuginosus currently holds in a variety of fields.

The production of xylanases and chitinases, among other key enzymes, has recently caught the attention of the scientific community. As a result, much of the current literature surrounding T. lanuginosus has focused on these industrial uses. However, much is still unknown about this fungus at the genetic level, as the genome was not fully sequenced until just a decade ago (Mchunu et al., 2013). An ongoing area of research seeks to investigate the genome of T. lanuginosus, which was the primary purpose of this study. Specifically, this research attempted to identify a small region of DNA polymerase alpha (Pol ⍺), a gene that is essential to DNA replication. To this end, primers were designed to amplify regions of the genome where the target gene was expected to be. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to stimulate this amplification process and the results were then visualized using agarose gel electrophoresis. Ultimately, these methods were unsuccessful at amplifying the expected regions of the T. lanuginosus genome. Variations in primer design and PCR conditions were not able to achieve the expected results. There is potential for further research into the Pol ⍺ gene, which is necessary to improve our understanding of this fungus at the genetic level.

Acknowledgments to Dr. Ira Simet for his support and advice throughout the research process. All funding and instrumentation was provided by the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Northern Iowa.

Year of Submission



Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


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