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Open Access Research article

A multigene phylogeny of Olpidium and its implications for early fungal evolution

Satoshi Sekimoto13*, D'Ann Rochon2, Jennifer E Long14, Jaclyn M Dee1 and Mary L Berbee1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Botany, 3529-6270 University Boulevard, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4 Canada

2 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland, British Columbia, V0H 1Z0 Canada

3 Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA

4 Department of Biology, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3020 - Station CSC, Victoria, British Columbia, V8W 3N5 Canada

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:331  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-331

Published: 15 November 2011

Abstract

Background

From a common ancestor with animals, the earliest fungi inherited flagellated zoospores for dispersal in water. Terrestrial fungi lost all flagellated stages and reproduce instead with nonmotile spores. Olpidium virulentus (= Olpidium brassicae), a unicellular fungus parasitizing vascular plant root cells, seemed anomalous. Although Olpidium produces zoospores, in previous phylogenetic studies it appeared nested among the terrestrial fungi. Its position was based mainly on ribosomal gene sequences and was not strongly supported. Our goal in this study was to use amino acid sequences from four genes to reconstruct the branching order of the early-diverging fungi with particular emphasis on the position of Olpidium.

Results

We concatenated sequences from the Ef-2, RPB1, RPB2 and actin loci for maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses. In the resulting trees, Olpidium virulentus, O. bornovanus and non-flagellated terrestrial fungi formed a strongly supported clade. Topology tests rejected monophyly of the Olpidium species with any other clades of flagellated fungi. Placing Olpidium at the base of terrestrial fungi was also rejected. Within the terrestrial fungi, Olpidium formed a monophyletic group with the taxa traditionally classified in the phylum Zygomycota. Within Zygomycota, Mucoromycotina was robustly monophyletic. Although without bootstrap support, Monoblepharidomycetes, a small class of zoosporic fungi, diverged from the basal node in Fungi. The zoosporic phylum Blastocladiomycota appeared as the sister group to the terrestrial fungi plus Olpidium.

Conclusions

This study provides strong support for Olpidium as the closest living flagellated relative of the terrestrial fungi. Appearing nested among hyphal fungi, Olpidium's unicellular thallus may have been derived from ancestral hyphae. Early in their evolution, terrestrial hyphal fungi may have reproduced with zoospores.