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Open Access Research article

Clonality, recombination, and hybridization in the plumbing-inhabiting human pathogen Fusarium keratoplasticum inferred from multilocus sequence typing

Dylan PG Short1*, Kerry O’Donnell2 and David M Geiser3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis, 1636 E Alisal St., Salinas, CA 93905, USA

2 Bacterial Foodborne Pathogens and Mycology Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 1815 North University Street, Peoria, IL 61604, USA

3 Department of Plant Pathology & Environmental Microbiology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-91

Published: 26 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Recent work has shown that Fusarium species and genotypes most commonly associated with human infections, particularly of the cornea (mycotic keratitis), are the same as those most commonly isolated from plumbing systems. The species most dominant in plumbing biofilms is Fusarium keratoplasticum, a cosmopolitan fungus known almost exclusively from animal infections and biofilms. To better understand its diversity and population dynamics, we developed and utilized a nine-locus sequence-based typing system to make inferences about clonality, recombination, population structure, species boundaries and hybridization.

Results

High levels of genetic diversity and evidence for recombination and clonality were detected among 75 clinical and 156 environmental isolates of Fusarium keratoplasticum. The multilocus sequence typing system (MLST) resolved 111 unique nine-locus sequence types (STs). The single locus bifactorial determinants of mating compatibility (mating types MAT1-1 and MAT1-2), were found in a ratio of 70:30. All but one of the 49 isolates of the most common ST (FSSC 2d-2) came from human infections, mostly of the cornea, and from biofilms associated with contact lenses and plumbing surfaces. Significant levels of phylogenetic incongruence were found among loci. Putative clonal relationships among genotypes were estimated, showing a mixture of large clonal complexes and unrelated singletons. Discordance between the nuclear ribosomal rRNA and other gene genealogies is consistent with introgression of ribosomal RNA alleles of phylogenetic species FSSC 9 into F. keratoplasticum. No significant population subdivision based on clinical versus non-clinical sources was found.

Conclusions

Incongruent phylogenetic trees and the presence of both mating types within otherwise identical STs were observed, providing evidence for sexuality in F. keratoplasticum. Cryptic speciation suggested in a published three-locus MLST system was not supported with the addition of new loci, but evidence of introgression of ribosomal RNA genes from another strongly supported phylogenetic species (FSSC 9), also known from plumbing systems and human infections, was detected in two isolates. Overall, F. keratoplasticum is a diverse and geographically unstructured species with a mixed clonal and recombinant life history.

Keywords:
Biofilm; Clonality; Fusarium; Hybridization; MLST; Mycotic pathogen; Population dynamics; Recombination