Open Access Open Badges Research article

Compositions of fungal secretomes indicate a greater impact of phylogenetic history than lifestyle adaptation

Jorrit-Jan Krijger1, Michael R Thon2, Holger B Deising13 and Stefan GR Wirsel13*

Author Affiliations

1 Institut für Agrar- und Ernährungswissenschaften, Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät III, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Betty-Heimann-Str. 3, Halle (Saale) D-06120, Germany

2 Centro Hispano-Luso de Investigaciones Agrarias, Universidad de Salamanca / Parque Científico, Campus de Villamayor, C/ Río Duero, 12, Villamayor (Salamanca) 37185, Spain

3 Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Nutzpflanzenforschung, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Betty-Heimann-Str. 3, Halle (Saale) D-06120, Germany

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:722  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-722

Published: 27 August 2014



Since the first fungal genome sequences became available, investigators have been employing comparative genomics to understand how fungi have evolved to occupy diverse ecological niches. The secretome, i.e. the entirety of all proteins secreted by an organism, is of particular importance, as by these proteins fungi acquire nutrients and communicate with their surroundings.


It is generally assumed that fungi with similar nutritional lifestyles have similar secretome compositions. In this study, we test this hypothesis by annotating and comparing the soluble secretomes, defined as the sets of proteins containing classical signal peptides but lacking transmembrane domains of fungi representing a broad diversity of nutritional lifestyles. Secretome size correlates with phylogeny and to a lesser extent with lifestyle. Plant pathogens and saprophytes have larger secretomes than animal pathogens. Small secreted cysteine-rich proteins (SSCPs), which may comprise many effectors important for the interaction of plant pathogens with their hosts, are defined here to have a mature length of ≤ 300 aa residues, at least four cysteines, and a total cysteine content of ≥5%. SSCPs are found enriched in the secretomes of the Pezizomycotina and Basidiomycota in comparison to Saccharomycotina. Relative SSCP content is noticeably higher in plant pathogens than in animal pathogens, while saprophytes were in between and closer to plant pathogens. Expansions and contractions of gene families and in the number of occurrences of functional domains are largely lineage specific, e.g. contraction of glycoside hydrolases in Saccharomycotina, and are only weakly correlated with lifestyle. However, within a given lifestyle a few general trends exist, such as the expansion of secreted family M14 metallopeptidases and chitin-binding proteins in plant pathogenic Pezizomycotina.


While the secretomes of fungi with similar lifestyles share certain characteristics, the expansion and contraction of gene families is largely lineage specific, and not shared among all fungi of a given lifestyle.

Fungi; Secretome; Cysteine-rich; SSP; SSCP; Cluster; Contraction; Expansion; Phylogeny; Nutritional lifestyle