The main task of microbial culture collections is to increase the number of strains of identified and available microorganisms that are preserved in a genetically stable way, following either isolation from selected habitats or exchange with similar institutions. The Microbial Culture Collection Ex is one of the few world gene banks that is specialised in the isolation and preservation of eukaryotic extremophilic microorganisms: namely, fungi. The number of preserved strains continues to increase, and at the beginning of 2014, it had reached more than 9000. Over the years, many strains have been isolated from hypersaline environments (e.g., salterns, salt lakes), from extremely cold environments (e.g. glaciers, sea water, snow), from the deep sea, hot deserts and springs, and extremely oligotrophic environments (e.g., rock, water. In 2011, we added the extreme environments of our homes to the list of extreme natural environments, and particularly the niches that can be found in different house appliances, which are inhabited by polyextremophilic and potentially pathogenic fungi. 

The majority of the isolates of the Microbial Culture Collection Ex are extremophilic fungi, for which we provide a special service on a global scale. It is much more economical for users to order extremophilic fungi from the culture collection than to isolate and identify them themselves. 

As well as fungi, the Microbial Culture Collecton Ex also includes bacterial, archaeal and algal strains. Preserved cultures are important for teaching, as reference and type strains, as strains intended for research, and for screening tests peformed on demand. 


Specialisation of Microbial Culture Collection Ex


The Microbial Culture Collection Ex is one of the very few gene banks in the World that are specilised for the isolation and preseravtion of eukaryotic extremophilic microorganisms. Over the years, the strains preserved have been isolated from: hypersaline environments (e.g., different salterns in Slovenia, Croatia, France, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Dominican Republic, Puertorico, and Namibia); from hypersaline lakes (e.g., Dead Sea [Israel], Great Salt Lake [Utah, USA]; Lake Enriquillo [Dominican Republic]); from extremely cold environments (e.g., glaciers, sea water, snow in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Patagonia, and on high mountains); from deep sea environments (i.e., down to 6,000 m in depth); from deserts (e.g., Africa, Asia, South America); from near hot springs (e.g., Iceland, USA); from extremely oligotrophic environments (e.g., rock in hot or cold climate zones, water from lakes and wells, underground water, the tap water system); from tree bark (e.g., beech, oak, birch); from extreme domestic environments (e.g., refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines); from infected walls of buildings, bathrooms, and air conditioning systems in private houses; in industrial objects; and from different organic and inorganic objects. Extremophilic fungi represent the majority of isolates, for a collection that is unique on a global scale. At the same time, the Microbial Culture Collection Ex also preserves extremophilic and other bacteria and archaea. 



The Microbial Culture Collection Ex was established in 1998 as part of the Research Group for the Biology of Microorganisms, under the Chair of Molecular Genetics and Biology of Microorganisms, in the Department of Biology of the Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia. In 2008, the Microbial Culture Collection Ex took full responsibility for the majority of the isolates of the Microbial Culture Collection of the National Institute of Chemistry (MZKI), the oldest Slovenian Microbiological Culture Collection, which consequentially considerably limited its activities. 



Technical equipment

The Microbial Culture Collection Ex is equipped for isolation and cultivation of fungi and aerobic and anaerobic bacteria in pure cultures, and also for their preservation in a genetically stable way. For the cultivation of microorganisms, incubation chambers are set at different temperatures, with anaerobic incubators, anaerobic chambers, rotary shakers, and laminar flow hoods available. For the preservation of the strains, freezers are maintained at -80 °C, although the storage is primarily in Dewar containers for preservation in liquid nitrogen at -196 °C, and in liquid nitrogen vapour at -140 °C. Some microorganisms from the Culture Collection are also freeze dried and stored under sterile mineral oil, or on granules of silicagel. 


Teaching activities

The IC Mycosmo participates in the educational and learning processes of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Students learn about the importance and activities of microbial culture collections during lectures and practical courses, through which they get aquainted with different microorganisms. Occasionally the IC Mycosmo organises courses based on its area of expertise for high school teachers of biology and chemistry, and for other interested customers. 


In the field of extremophilic research to date (from 1998 to 2014), 52 students of microbiology or biology have obtained a Bachelor degree, four have completed a Master degree, and 15 have successfully defended their PhD theses. 


Research results are thus transferred into educational processes, as the IC Mycosmo personnel are actively involved in undergraduate and graduate education programmes in the Biotechnical and Medical Faculties of the University of Ljubljana.