The fungal culture collection of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle contains living microscopic fungi, mainly saphrophytic ascomycetes, isolated from various substrata and locations. The collection offers a mould identification service.
The museum’s fungal strain collection today contains over 6,000 strains (including 350 Types) corresponding to 1,365 different species. Because of the specialisation of the unit’s researchers who are working on the collection, the collection has a particular focus on Ascomycetes and Zygomycetes, mostly saprophytic. The enrichment of the collection, at a rate of around 100 strains per year, is aimed at expanding the range of species present but also at focusing on particular ecological niches (endophytes, cheese fungi, cave fungi, etc.). These specimens come from harvests and exchanges with other collections, and may also be sent out for identification by external correspondents. These specimens form the basis of taxonomic, fundamental biology and more recently genomic studies by the unit’s researchers and in collaboration with others. The data on the strains are all computerised and consultable in the MYCOBASE database. Complementary data on specific activities, DNA sequences, iconography, bibliography, etc. are added to the catalogue data as they are acquired. The first two complete genomes of the strains in the collection have been published in 2014.
The collection was founded in 1945 by Roger Heim, who was the director of the museum’s Cryptogamy research unit at the time. Designed from the outset to preserve the cultivable species harvested on the unit researchers’ missions, it gradually grew thanks to new harvests, donations, exchanges and acquisitions. These strains were initially kept alive by a series of transplantations into artificial culture media. Today, the preservation methods have improved considerably and all the strains are frozen to keep them in a state of latent life. Therefore, we have, in a limited volume, fungi harvested around sixty years ago, still alive and able to be revived, cultured, studied and used for various purposes at any time. At European level, the collection is known under the acronym LCP and is part of the European Culture Collection Organisation (ECCO). Internationally, it is registered with the World Data Centre for Microorganisms (WDCM) under no. 659.
The collection distributes an average of over 120 strains per year to researchers (systematics, chemistry, genomics, etc.), teachers and industrial companies for the production of useful molecules or the study of particular activities (enzymatic degradation, biocide resistance, etc.). The collection is thus involved in collaborations with public and private sector bodies (INRA, agri-food industry companies, cosmetology, etc.).
The collection offers a mould identification and advices service. On-site samples and audits may be performed on request. This expertise regularly leads to applied research contracts (contamination epidemiology, screening for particular activities). It also responds to requests by artists who are fascinated by mould, and assists them with their projects (films, live sculptures, etc.).