skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on June 28, 2023

Title: Transcriptional Divergence Underpinning Sexual Development in the Fungal Class Sordariomycetes
ABSTRACT Gene expression divergence through evolutionary processes is thought to be important for achieving programmed development in multicellular organisms. To test this premise in filamentous fungi, we investigated transcriptional profiles of 3,942 single-copy orthologous genes (SCOGs) in five related sordariomycete species that have morphologically diverged in the formation of their flask-shaped perithecia. We compared expression of the SCOGs to inferred gene expression levels of the most recent common ancestor of the five species, ranking genes from their largest increases to smallest increases in expression during perithecial development in each of the five species. We found that a large proportion of the genes that exhibited evolved increases in gene expression were important for normal perithecial development in Fusarium graminearum . Many of these genes were previously uncharacterized, encoding hypothetical proteins without any known functional protein domains. Interestingly, the developmental stages during which aberrant knockout phenotypes appeared largely coincided with the elevated expression of the deleted genes. In addition, we identified novel genes that affected normal perithecial development in Magnaporthe oryzae and Neurospora crassa , which were functionally and transcriptionally diverged from the orthologous counterparts in F. graminearum . Furthermore, comparative analysis of developmental transcriptomes and phylostratigraphic analysis suggested that genes encoding more » hypothetical proteins are generally young and transcriptionally divergent between related species. This study provides tangible evidence of shifts in gene expression that led to acquisition of novel function of orthologous genes in each lineage and demonstrates that several genes with hypothetical function are crucial for shaping multicellular fruiting bodies. IMPORTANCE The fungal class Sordariomycetes includes numerous important plant and animal pathogens. It also provides model systems for studying fungal fruiting body development, as its members develop fruiting bodies with a few well-characterized tissue types on common growth media and have rich genomic resources that enable comparative and functional analyses. To understand transcriptional divergence of key developmental genes between five related sordariomycete fungi, we performed targeted knockouts of genes inferred to have evolved significant upward shifts in expression. We found that many previously uncharacterized genes play indispensable roles at different stages of fruiting body development, which have undergone transcriptional activation in specific lineages. These novel genes are predicted to be phylogenetically young and tend to be involved in lineage- or species-specific function. Transcriptional activation of genes with unknown function seems to be more frequent than ever thought, which may be crucial for rapid adaption to changing environments for successful sexual reproduction. « less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Goldman, Gustavo H.
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. ABSTRACT Long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) plays important roles in sexual development in eukaryotes. In filamentous fungi, however, little is known about the expression and roles of lncRNAs during fruiting body formation. By profiling developmental transcriptomes during the life cycle of the plant-pathogenic fungus Fusarium graminearum , we identified 547 lncRNAs whose expression was highly dynamic, with about 40% peaking at the meiotic stage. Many lncRNAs were found to be antisense to mRNAs, forming 300 sense-antisense pairs. Although small RNAs were produced from these overlapping loci, antisense lncRNAs appeared not to be involved in gene silencing pathways. Genome-wide analysis of small RNA clusters identified many silenced loci at the meiotic stage. However, we found transcriptionally active small RNA clusters, many of which were associated with lncRNAs. Also, we observed that many antisense lncRNAs and their respective sense transcripts were induced in parallel as the fruiting bodies matured. The nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) pathway is known to determine the fates of lncRNAs as well as mRNAs. Thus, we analyzed mutants defective in NMD and identified a subset of lncRNAs that were induced during sexual development but suppressed by NMD during vegetative growth. These results highlight the developmental stage-specific nature and functional potential ofmore »lncRNA expression in shaping the fungal fruiting bodies and provide fundamental resources for studying sexual stage-induced lncRNAs. IMPORTANCE Fusarium graminearum is the causal agent of the head blight on our major staple crops, wheat and corn. The fruiting body formation on the host plants is indispensable for the disease cycle and epidemics. Long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) molecules are emerging as key regulatory components for sexual development in animals and plants. To date, however, there is a paucity of information on the roles of lncRNAs in fungal fruiting body formation. Here we characterized hundreds of lncRNAs that exhibited developmental stage-specific expression patterns during fruiting body formation. Also, we discovered that many lncRNAs were induced in parallel with their overlapping transcripts on the opposite DNA strand during sexual development. Finally, we found a subset of lncRNAs that were regulated by an RNA surveillance system during vegetative growth. This research provides fundamental genomic resources that will spur further investigations on lncRNAs that may play important roles in shaping fungal fruiting bodies.« less
  2. ABSTRACT The origins and maintenance of the rich fungal diversity have been longstanding issues in evolutionary biology. To investigate how differences in expression regulation contribute to divergences in development and ecology among closely related species, transcriptomes were compared between Chaetomium globosum , a homothallic pathogenic fungus thriving in highly humid ecologies, and Neurospora crassa , a heterothallic postfire saprotroph. Gene expression was quantified in perithecia at nine distinct morphological stages during nearly synchronous sexual development. Unlike N. crassa , expression of all mating loci in C. globosum was highly correlated. Key regulators of the initiation of sexual development in response to light stimuli—including orthologs of N. crassa sub-1 , sub-1 -dependent gene NCU00309, and asl-1 —showed regulatory dynamics matching between C. globosum and N. crassa . Among 24 secondary metabolism gene clusters in C. globosum , 11—including the cochliodones biosynthesis cluster—exhibited highly coordinated expression across perithecial development. C. globosum exhibited coordinately upregulated expression of histidine kinases in hyperosmotic response pathways—consistent with gene expression responses to high humidity we identified in fellow pathogen Fusarium graminearum . Bayesian networks indicated that gene interactions during sexual development have diverged in concert with the capacities both to reproduce asexually and to live a self-compatiblemore »versus self-incompatible life cycle, shifting the hierarchical roles of genes associated with conidiation and heterokaryon incompatibility in N. crassa and C. globosum . This divergence supports an evolutionary history of loss of conidiation due to unfavorable combinations of heterokaryon incompatibility in homothallic species. IMPORTANCE Fungal diversity has amazed evolutionary biologists for decades. One societally important aspect of this diversity manifests in traits that enable pathogenicity. The opportunistic pathogen Chaetomium globosum is well adapted to a high-humidity environment and produces numerous secondary metabolites that defend it from predation. Many of these chemicals can threaten human health. Understanding the phases of the C. globosum life cycle in which these products are made enables better control and even utilization of this fungus. Among its intriguing traits is that it both is self-fertile and lacks any means of propagule-based asexual reproduction. By profiling genome-wide gene expression across the process of sexual reproduction in C. globosum and comparing it to genome-wide gene expression in the model filamentous fungus N. crassa and other closely related fungi, we revealed associations among mating-type genes, sexual developmental genes, sexual incompatibility regulators, environmentally responsive genes, and secondary metabolic pathways.« less
  3. Multicellularity has been one of the most important innovations in the history of life. The role of gene regulatory changes in driving transitions to multicellularity is being increasingly recognized; however, factors influencing gene expression patterns are poorly known in many clades. Here, we compared the developmental transcriptomes of complex multicellular fruiting bodies of eight Agaricomycetes and Cryptococcus neoformans , a closely related human pathogen with a simple morphology. In-depth analysis in Pleurotus ostreatus revealed that allele-specific expression, natural antisense transcripts, and developmental gene expression, but not RNA editing or a ‘developmental hourglass,’ act in concert to shape its transcriptome during fruiting body development. We found that transcriptional patterns of genes strongly depend on their evolutionary ages. Young genes showed more developmental and allele-specific expression variation, possibly because of weaker evolutionary constraint, suggestive of nonadaptive expression variance in fruiting bodies. These results prompted us to define a set of conserved genes specifically regulated only during complex morphogenesis by excluding young genes and accounting for deeply conserved ones shared with species showing simple sexual development. Analysis of the resulting gene set revealed evolutionary and functional associations with complex multicellularity, which allowed us to speculate they are involved in complex multicellular morphogenesis ofmore »mushroom fruiting bodies.« less
  4. Abstract Convergent evolution is pervasive in nature, but it is poorly understood how various constraints and natural selection limit the diversity of evolvable phenotypes. Here, we analyze the transcriptome across fruiting body development to understand the independent evolution of complex multicellularity in the two largest clades of fungi—the Agarico- and Pezizomycotina. Despite >650 My of divergence between these clades, we find that very similar sets of genes have convergently been co-opted for complex multicellularity, followed by expansions of their gene families by duplications. Over 82% of shared multicellularity-related gene families were expanding in both clades, indicating a high prevalence of convergence also at the gene family level. This convergence is coupled with a rich inferred repertoire of multicellularity-related genes in the most recent common ancestor of the Agarico- and Pezizomycotina, consistent with the hypothesis that the coding capacity of ancestral fungal genomes might have promoted the repeated evolution of complex multicellularity. We interpret this repertoire as an indication of evolutionary predisposition of fungal ancestors for evolving complex multicellular fruiting bodies. Our work suggests that evolutionary convergence may happen not only when organisms are closely related or are under similar selection pressures, but also when ancestral genomic repertoires render certain evolutionarymore »trajectories more likely than others, even across large phylogenetic distances.« less
  5. Pears ( Pyrus sp.) are widely cultivated in China, and their yield accounts for more than 60% of global pear production. The fungal pathogen Valsa pyri is a major causal agent of pear canker disease, which results in enormous losses of pear production in northern China. In this study, we characterized a Zn 2 Cys 6 transcription factor that contains one GAL4 domain and a fungal-trans domain, which are present in VpxlnR. The vpxlnR gene expression was upregulated in the invasion stage of V. pyri . To investigate its functions, we constructed gene deletion mutants and complementary strains. We observed that the growth of the vpxlnR mutants was reduced on potato dextrose agar (PDA), Czapek plus glucose or sucrose compared with that of the wild-type strain. Additionally, vpxlnR mutants exhibited loss of function in fruiting body formation. Moreover, vpxlnR mutants were more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide (H 2 O 2 ) and salicylic acid (SA) and were reduced in their virulence at the early infection stage. According to a previous study, VpxlnR-interacting motifs containing NRHKGNCCGM were searched in the V. pyri genome, and we obtained 354 target genes, of which 148 genes had Clusters of Orthologous Groups (COG) terms. PHI-BLASTmore »was used to identify virulence-related genes, and we found 28 hits. Furthermore, eight genes from the 28 PHI-BLAST hits were further assessed by yeast one-hybrid (Y1H) assays, and five target genes, salicylate hydroxylase (VP1G_09520), serine/threonine-protein kinase (VP1G_03128), alpha-xylosidase (VP1G_06369), G-protein beta subunit (VP1G_02856), and acid phosphatase (VP1G_03782), could interact with VpxlnR in vivo . Their transcript levels were reduced in one or two vpxlnR mutants. Taken together, these findings imply that VpxlnR is a key regulator of growth, development, stress, and virulence through controlling genes involved in signaling pathways and extracellular enzyme activities in V. pyri . The motifs interacting with VpxlnR also provide new insights into the molecular mechanism of xlnR proteins.« less