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  1. Abstract

    A multinucleate syncytium is a common growth form in filamentous fungi. Comprehensive functions of the syncytial state remain unknown, but it likely allows for a wide range of adaptations to enable filamentous fungi to coordinate growth, reproduction, responses to the environment, and to distribute nuclear and cytoplasmic elements across a colony. Indeed, the underlying mechanistic details of how syncytia regulate cellular and molecular processes spatiotemporally across a colony are largely unexplored. Here, we implemented a strategy to analyze the relative fitness of different nuclear populations in syncytia of Neurospora crassa, including nuclei with loss-of-function mutations in essential genes, based on production of multinucleate asexual spores using flow cytometry of pairings between strains with differentially fluorescently tagged nuclear histones. The distribution of homokaryotic and heterokaryotic asexual spores in pairings was assessed between different auxotrophic and morphological mutants, as well as with strains that were defective in somatic cell fusion or were heterokaryon incompatible. Mutant nuclei were compartmentalized into both homokaryotic and heterokaryotic asexual spores, a type of bet hedging for maintenance and evolution of mutational events, despite disadvantages to the syncytium. However, in pairings between strains that were blocked in somatic cell fusion or were heterokaryon incompatible, we observed a “winner-takes-all” phenotype, where asexual spores originating from paired strains were predominantly one genotype. These data indicate that syncytial fungal cells are permissive and tolerate a wide array of nuclear functionality, but that cells/colonies that are unable to cooperate via syncytia formation actively compete for resources.

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  2. Abstract

    Opportunistic yeast pathogens arose multiple times in the Saccharomycetes class, including the recently emerged, multidrug-resistant (MDR) Candida auris. We show that homologs of a known yeast adhesin family in Candida albicans, the Hyr/Iff-like (Hil) family, are enriched in distinct clades of Candida species as a result of multiple, independent expansions. Following gene duplication, the tandem repeat–rich region in these proteins diverged extremely rapidly and generated large variations in length and β-aggregation potential, both of which are known to directly affect adhesion. The conserved N-terminal effector domain was predicted to adopt a β-helical fold followed by an α-crystallin domain, making it structurally similar to a group of unrelated bacterial adhesins. Evolutionary analyses of the effector domain in C. auris revealed relaxed selective constraint combined with signatures of positive selection, suggesting functional diversification after gene duplication. Lastly, we found the Hil family genes to be enriched at chromosomal ends, which likely contributed to their expansion via ectopic recombination and break-induced replication. Combined, these results suggest that the expansion and diversification of adhesin families generate variation in adhesion and virulence within and between species and are a key step toward the emergence of fungal pathogens.

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