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Open Access Research article

High variability in a mating type linked region in the dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans caused by frequency-dependent selection?

Ingeborg Bjorvand Engh1, Inger Skrede1, Glenn-Peter Sætre2 and Håvard Kauserud1*

Author Affiliations

1 Microbial Evolution Research Group (MERG), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway

2 Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1066 Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Genetics 2010, 11:64  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-11-64

Published: 12 July 2010



The mating type loci that govern the mating process in fungi are thought to be influenced by negative frequency-dependent selection due to rare allele advantage. In this study we used a mating type linked DNA marker as a proxy to indirectly study the allelic richness and geographic distribution of mating types of one mating type locus (MAT A) in worldwide populations of the dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans. This fungus, which causes serious destruction to wooden constructions in temperate regions worldwide, has recently expanded its geographic range with a concomitant genetic bottleneck.


High allelic richness and molecular variation was detected in the mating type linked marker as compared to other presumably neutral markers. Comparable amounts of genetic variation appeared in the mating type linked marker in populations from nature and buildings, which contrast the pattern observed with neutral genetic markers where natural populations were far more variable. Some geographic structuring of the allelic variation in the mating type linked marker appeared, but far less than that observed with neutral markers. In founder populations of S. lacrymans, alleles co-occurring in heterokaryotic individuals were more divergent than expected by chance, which agrees with the expectation for populations where few mating alleles exists. The analyzed DNA marker displays trans-species polymorphism wherein some alleles from the closely related species S. himantoides are more similar to those of S. lacrymans than other alleles from S. himantoides.


Our results support the idea that strong negative frequency-dependent selection maintains high levels of genetic variation in MAT-linked genomic regions, even in recently bottlenecked populations of S. lacrymans.