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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Phylogenomics supports microsporidia as the earliest diverging clade of sequenced fungi

Salvador Capella-Gutiérrez, Marina Marcet-Houben and Toni Gabaldón*

Author affiliations

Bioinformatics and Genomics Programme. Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and UPF. Doctor Aiguader, 88. 08003 Barcelona, Spain

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2012, 10:47  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-10-47

Published: 31 May 2012



Microsporidia is one of the taxa that have experienced the most dramatic taxonomic reclassifications. Once thought to be among the earliest diverging eukaryotes, the fungal nature of this group of intracellular pathogens is now widely accepted. However, the specific position of microsporidia within the fungal tree of life is still debated. Due to the presence of accelerated evolutionary rates, phylogenetic analyses involving microsporidia are prone to methodological artifacts, such as long-branch attraction, especially when taxon sampling is limited.


Here we exploit the recent availability of six complete microsporidian genomes to re-assess the long-standing question of their phylogenetic position. We show that microsporidians have a similar low level of conservation of gene neighborhood with other groups of fungi when controlling for the confounding effects of recent segmental duplications. A combined analysis of thousands of gene trees supports a topology in which microsporidia is a sister group to all other sequenced fungi. Moreover, this topology received increased support when less informative trees were discarded. This position of microsporidia was also strongly supported based on the combined analysis of 53 concatenated genes, and was robust to filters controlling for rate heterogeneity, compositional bias, long branch attraction and heterotachy.


Altogether, our data strongly support a scenario in which microsporidia is the earliest-diverging clade of sequenced fungi.

Microsporidia; Fungi; Phylogenomics; Fungal Tree of Life