Conserved meiotic machinery in Glomus spp., a putatively ancient asexual fungal lineage

Genome Biol Evol. 2011;3:950-8. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evr089. Epub 2011 Aug 29.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) represent an ecologically important and evolutionarily intriguing group of symbionts of land plants, currently thought to have propagated clonally for over 500 Myr. AMF produce multinucleate spores and may exchange nuclei through anastomosis, but meiosis has never been observed in this group. A provocative alternative for their successful and long asexual evolutionary history is that these organisms may have cryptic sex, allowing them to recombine alleles and compensate for deleterious mutations. This is partly supported by reports of recombination among some of their natural populations. We explored this hypothesis by searching for some of the primary tools for a sustainable sexual cycle--the genes whose products are required for proper completion of meiotic recombination in yeast--in the genomes of four AMF and compared them with homologs of representative ascomycete, basidiomycete, chytridiomycete, and zygomycete fungi. Our investigation used molecular and bioinformatic tools to identify homologs of 51 meiotic genes, including seven meiosis-specific genes and other "core meiotic genes" conserved in the genomes of the AMF Glomus diaphanum (MUCL 43196), Glomus irregulare (DAOM-197198), Glomus clarum (DAOM 234281), and Glomus cerebriforme (DAOM 227022). Homology of AMF meiosis-specific genes was verified by phylogenetic analyses with representative fungi, animals (Mus, Hydra), and a choanoflagellate (Monosiga). Together, these results indicate that these supposedly ancient asexual fungi may be capable of undergoing a conventional meiosis; a hypothesis that is consistent with previous reports of recombination within and across some of their populations.

PMID:21876220 | PMC:PMC3184777 | DOI:10.1093/gbe/evr089