Evidence for sexuality in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus

Mathieu Paoletti, Carla Rydholm, Elke U. Schwier, Michael J. Anderson, George Szakacs, François Lutzoni, Jean Paul Debeaupuis, Jean Paul Latgé, David W. Denning, Paul S. Dyer

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    Aspergillus fumigatus is a medically important opportunistic pathogen and a major cause of respiratory allergy [1]. 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; [2, 3]). 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 α box mating-type gene and show that the MAT locus has an idiomorph structure characteristic of heterothallic (obligate sexual outbreeding) fungi [4, 5]. 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. ©2005 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1242-1248
    Number of pages6
    JournalCurrent Biology
    Issue number13
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2005


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