Unisexual reproduction enhances fungal competitiveness by promoting habitat exploration via hyphal growth and sporulation.
Unisexual reproduction is a novel homothallic sexual cycle recently discovered in both ascomycetous and basidiomycetous pathogenic fungi. It is a form of selfing that induces the yeast-to-hyphal dimorphic transition in isolates of the α mating type of the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans. Unisexual reproduction may benefit the pathogen by facilitating sexual reproduction in the absence of the opposite a mating type and by generating infectious propagules called basidiospores. Here, we report an independent potential selective advantage of unisexual reproduction beyond genetic exchange and recombination. We competed a wild-type strain capable of undergoing unisexual reproduction with mutants defective in this developmental pathway and found that unisexual reproduction provides a considerable dispersal advantage through hyphal growth and sporulation. Our results show that unisexual reproduction may serve to facilitate access to both nutrients and potential mating partners and may provide a means to maintain the capacity for dimorphic transitions in the environment.
Phadke, SS; Feretzaki, M; Heitman, J
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