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Comparative Genomics Suggests Primary Homothallism of Pneumocystis Species

Almeida, João M. G. C. F., Cissãé, Ousmane H., Fonseca, ãéÁlvaro, Pagni, Marco, Hauser, Philippe M.
mBio 2015 v.6 no.1 pp. e02250-14
DNA, Pneumocystis carinii, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Taphrina deformans, fungi, genes, genomics, heterothallism, homothallism, host specificity, hosts, humans, immunocompromised population, loci, lungs, parasites, patients, plant pathogens, pneumonia, polymerase chain reaction, rats, sexual reproduction
Pneumocystis species are fungal parasites of mammal lungs showing host specificity. Pneumocystis jirovecii colonizes humans and causes severe pneumonia in immunosuppressed individuals. In the absence of in vitro cultures, the life cycle of these fungi remains poorly known. Sexual reproduction probably occurs, but the system of this process and the mating type ( MAT ) genes involved are not characterized. In the present study, we used comparative genomics to investigate the issue in P. jirovecii and Pneumocystis carinii , the species infecting rats, as well as in their relative Taphrina deformans . We searched sex-related genes using 103 sequences from the relative Schizosaccharomyces pombe as queries. Genes homologous to several sex-related role categories were identified in all species investigated, further supporting sexuality in these organisms. Extensive in silico searches identified only three putative MAT genes in each species investigated ( matMc , matMi , and matPi ). In P. jirovecii , these genes clustered on the same contig, proving their contiguity in the genome. This organization seems compatible neither with heterothallism, because two different MAT loci on separate DNA molecules would have been detected, nor with secondary homothallism, because the latter involves generally more MAT genes. Consistently, we did not detect cis -acting sequences for mating type switching in secondary homothallism, and PCR revealed identical MAT genes in P. jirovecii isolates from six patients. A strong synteny of the genomic region surrounding the putative MAT genes exists between the two Pneumocystis species. Our results suggest the hypothesis that primary homothallism is the system of reproduction of Pneumocystis species and T. deformans.