Assessing conserved function of conidiation regulators in two distantly related ascomycetes, Aspergillus nidulans and Neurospora crassa
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Conidiation is a common and critical asexual reproductive mode in fungi. The ascomycetes, the largest group in the kingdom Fungi undergo conidiation. The wide array of morphological difference in a conidiophore and conidial size, shape, and cellular organization demonstrates the importance of evolution in driving the morphological and functional diversity. An important unanswered question is how these conidiation processes evolve. We hypothesized that a conidiation regulatory pathway was present in the ancestral species, and became specialized in the extant species to lead to morphological and functional diversity. To address this hypothesis we assessed the conserved function of conidiation regulators in two distantly related ascomycetes, Aspergillus nidulans and Neurospora crassa. Using sequence similarity analysis, N. crassa orthologs were characterized to seven main conidiation regulatory genes in A. nidulans (fluG, flbC, flbD, abaA, wetA, medA, and stuA). Expression of the N. crassa orthologs complemented defective conidiation in the A. nidulans fluG, flbD, wetA, medA, and stuA mutants. In contrast, abaA and flbC and the N. crassa orthologs did not share conserved biochemical function. Taken in context of other recent studies of conidiation regulators, there are four distinct evolutionary patterns: (i) Non-homologous genes with analogous roles in conidiation (‘brlA’ and ‘fl’), (ii) Orthologs with retained biochemical function that lack analogous role in conidiation (‘fluG’, ‘flbD’, and ‘wetA’), (iii) Orthologs with retained biochemical function and analogous roles in conidiation (‘medA’ and ‘stuA’), and (iv) Orthologs with biochemical function not conserved but with analogous roles in conidiation (‘abaA’ and ‘flbC’). These studies set the stage for long-term studies of how evolution proceeded during the evolution of conidiation at different levels of phylogenetic diversity. An understanding of how evolutionary mechanisms shape the dynamics of developmental pathways will be significant for our understanding of fungal evolution of other novel adaptations such as pathogenesis.
Chung, Da Woon (2011). Assessing conserved function of conidiation regulators in two distantly related ascomycetes, Aspergillus nidulans and Neurospora crassa. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from