Clues of Sexual Reproduction in the 'Ancient Asexual' Fungal Lineage: The Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

Title: Clues of Sexual Reproduction in the 'Ancient Asexual' Fungal Lineage: The Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi
Authors: Riley, Rohan
Date: 2013
Abstract: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) represent an ancient and critical symbiotic partner with the majority of land plants, understood to promote ecosystem productivity and biodiversity and are also important to ecologically sound land management practices. The fungus is thought to be over 400 million years old, and due to a lack of an observable sexual cycle, has been placed into a select group of eukaryotes called 'ancient asexuals', which seemingly defy evolutionary theory by persisting for an extended period of time in the absence of sexual reproduction. Recently however, molecular evidence has accumulated which may suggest AMF harbour a cryptic sexual cycle. In the first chapter of this thesis, entitled "Searching for clues of sexual reproduction in the genomes of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi", I review evidence supporting this notion of a cryptic sexual cycle in AMF which includes: the presence of recombinational events, meiosis-specific genes as well as mating-specific transcription factors called SexM and SexP of the MATA_HMG protein family which are otherwise found only in the genomes of sexual fungi. In the second chapter, I present the main research of my MSc work where I used bioinformatic, population genetic, molecular and experimental approaches to build on this existing evidence of sexuality in AMF. These findings include the presence of a dramatically expanded family of MAT-HMG genes which are present in several isolates of the Rhizophagus irregularis and also harbour significant allele variation amongst these isolates, some of which resembles variation expected at MAT-genes in other fungi. Q-RT-PCR procedures revealed that at least some of these genes tend to increase in expression during crosses of R. irregularis isolates. We also uncovered the presence of a unique genomic region where at least three of these genes are located in tandem. Finally, several tests of recombination support the presence of intraisolate as well as interisolate recombination events occurring between these MAT-HMG genes.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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