The long road to understanding brown-rot decay. A view from the ditch
F Green III, T L Highley
Interest in understanding how brown-rot fungi decay wood has received increasing interest in recent years because of a need to identify novel targets that can be inhibited for the next generation of antifungal wood preservatives. Brown-rot fungi are unique in that they can degrade holocellulose (cellulose and hemicellulose) in wood without first removing the lignin. Furthermore, they degrade holocellulose in an unusual manner, causing a rapid decrease in degree of polymerization at low weight loss. Despite the increased research effort, the mechanism of brown-rot decay remains unclear and, furthermore, this research has not provided biochemical targets for inhibition and development of new wood preservatives. In viewing the brown-rot literature, it became apparent that many of the beliefs about brown-rot decomposition of wood are based more on tradition or conjecture than on facts. These myths tend to cloud our understanding of brown-rot decay and as a result may contribute to a misdirection of research efforts. The purpose of this paper is to attempt to identify and clarify some of these misconceptions about brown-rot decay that have become dogma.