Infographic: How Fungi Squeeze Through Tight Spaces—or Don’t

A study finds that slower-growing species are better able to adjust their growth to fit their hyphae through narrow passages.

Catherine Offord

After undergraduate research with spiders at the University of Oxford and graduate research with ants at Princeton University, Catherine left arthropods and academia to become a science writer. She has...

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Jun 1, 2021


When slow-growing fungi arrive at a gap smaller than the width of their hyphae, they can squeeze through and keep growing once they reach the other side. Fast-growing fungi tend to stall, either before their hyphae make it through the gap (top right), or because the hypha becomes depolarized—that is, it loses its internal organization—by the time it emerges from the channel (bottom right). Researchers used live-cell imaging to help explain the difference: faster growers have more vesicles carrying material needed for hyphal elongation and a bigger buildup of pressure at the tip, causing swelling that disrupts normal growth.

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