Molecular analysis of wet rot organisms
: application to conservation of maritime artifacts

  • Helen McDowell

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Conventional identification of decay fungi is time consuming and requires a knowledge of taxonomy. Identification systems were therefore developed using SDS-PAGE and western blotting. The production of unique protein and antigen profiles for the Coniophora genus using whole cell and exoprotein extracts, alllowed the differentiation of Coniophora organisms from other fungi known to inhabit wood. In addition intra- and inter-species variation of Coniophora antigens was evident, indicating that identification of individual strains and species of Coniophora is possible. Further, antigenic variation within the strains of C. puteana suggested that organisms within the species C. puteana may have been misclassified.

    The potential of the systems developed to identify other decay fungi was tested by the study of organisms from maritime artifacts present in Dundee. The systems allowed positive identification of some isolates, whilst other isolates now require further analysis. A large range of decay fungi was found on these ships, whilst the predominant organism colonising the timbers of the Unicorn, was Coniophora marmorata. Consequently detection systems initially developed fro C. puteana were also required to detect C. marmorata. 

    Currently relatively unsophisticated but effective methods of detecting decay in maritime artifacts are utilised but only detect decay once substantial structural damage has occurred. The potential of immunological methods for the in situ  detection of antigens of C. puteana, prior to the structural damage of the timber was therefore investigated. Polyclonal antisera produced against this organism, allowed the detection of the organism in laboratory decayed wood, but the antisera were highly cross-reactive towards other decay fungi. These antisera although of limited use for detection, provided useful information on the antigenicity and immunogenicity of various mycelial extracts of C. puteana. Consequently, monoclonal antibodies were produced against an exoantigen extract of C. puteana. 

    The monoclonal antibody probe developed reacted with other members of the Coniophora genus, allowing detection of C. marmorata in field samples from the Unicorn. However further cross-reactivity studeis indicated that this probe was not specific to the Coniophora genus. Consequently the use of this probe for the specific detection of C. marmorata in the field, is only possible when used in conjunction with SDS-PAGE and western blotting. 

    Date of AwardOct 1992
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Council for National Academic Awards
    SponsorsDundee District Council
    SupervisorJohn Palfreyman (Supervisor)

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