Mathematical Modelling of Fungal Interactions

  • Muhamed Choudhury

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Fungi are central components of almost all ecosystems through their role as decomposers and symbiotic agents while also having signicant impacts on many
    aspects of human livelihood. In these settings, fungal interactions, either with
    other fungi or in response to their local environment, are common but their study in vivo is complicated due to the multitude of processes involved. Thus, in vitro experiments are performed where fungi is grown on Petri dishes in a laboratory.

    However, even in these carefully controlled settings, experimental studies are complicated due to the scales involved: while a Petri dish is measured in centimetres, some species of fungi in the terrestrial environment can span kilometres while the underlying unit of growth is measured in microns. The mathematical models described and constructed in this thesis naturally link these different growth scales and includes the interactions experienced by growing fungi, thus complementing experimental approaches.

    A set of previously published coupled partial differential equations describing
    the growth of a fungus are investigated and new solutions obtained. A number
    of these new solutions involve the application of a decomposition method resulting in semi-analytical formulations that agree with numerical integration, particularly concerning the growth rates of the fungus at both small and large times.

    These models are adapted to focus on interactions between competing fungi
    and their response to domains containing toxic material. These new models, also sets of partial differential equations, are investigated using a combination of analytical, semi-analytical and numerical methods. For the first time in the literature, a mathematical model is constructed that includes a mechanism allowing fungi to obtain iron, a heavy metal essential for growth, through the production, release and reacquisition of siderophores which are molecules that bind and transport iron.

    The results constructed in this thesis are of great signicance and relevance
    to all instances involving the application of fungal interactions. In particular,
    nutrient availability influences fungal interactions and thus careful manipulation
    of this resource can improve the outcome of biotechnological applications involving fungi.
    Date of AwardNov 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGraeme Boswell (Supervisor) & P.M.J. Trevelyan (Supervisor)

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