Microsporidia evolved from ancestral sexual fungi

Current Biology : CB
Soo Chan LeeJoseph Heitman

Abstract

Microsporidia are obligate, intracellular eukaryotic pathogens that infect animal cells, including humans [1]. Previous studies suggested microsporidia share a common ancestor with fungi [2-7]. However, the exact nature of this phylogenetic relationship is unclear because of unusual features of microsporidial genomes, which are compact with fewer and highly divergent genes [8]. As a consequence, it is unclear whether microsporidia evolved from a specific fungal lineage, or whether microsporidia are a sister group to all fungi. Here, we present evidence addressing this controversial question that is independent of sequence-based phylogenetic reconstruction, but rather based on genome structure. In the zygomycete basal fungal lineage, the sex locus is a syntenic gene cluster governing sexual reproduction in which a high mobility group (HMG) transcription-factor gene is flanked by triose-phosphate transporter (TPT) and RNA helicase genes [9]. Strikingly, microsporidian genomes harbor a sex-related locus with the same genes in the same order. Genome-wide synteny analysis reveals multiple other loci conserved between microsporidia and zygomycetes to the exclusion of all other fungal lineages with sequenced genomes. These findings su...Continue Reading

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