Evidence for sexuality in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus.
Aspergillus fumigatus is a medically important opportunistic pathogen and a major cause of respiratory allergy. The species has long been considered an asexual organism. However, genome analysis has revealed the presence of genes associated with sexual reproduction, including a MAT-2 high-mobility group mating-type gene and genes for pheromone production and detection (Galagan et al., personal communication; Nierman et al., personal communication). We now demonstrate that A. fumigatus has other key characteristics of a sexual species. We reveal the existence of isolates containing a complementary MAT-1 alpha box mating-type gene and show that the MAT locus has an idiomorph structure characteristic of heterothallic (obligate sexual outbreeding) fungi. Analysis of 290 worldwide clinical and environmental isolates with a multiplex-PCR assay revealed the presence of MAT1-1 and MAT1-2 genotypes in similar proportions (43% and 57%, respectively). Further population genetic analyses provided evidence of recombination across a global sampling and within North American and European subpopulations. We also show that mating-type, pheromone-precursor, and pheromone-receptor genes are expressed during mycelial growth. These results indicate that A. fumigatus has a recent evolutionary history of sexual recombination and might have the potential for sexual reproduction. The possible presence of a sexual cycle is highly significant for the population biology and disease management of the species.
Paoletti, M; Rydholm, C; Schwier, EU; Anderson, MJ; Szakacs, G; Lutzoni, F; Debeaupuis, J-P; Latgé, J-P; Denning, DW; Dyer, PS
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