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Genomics and evolution of Pneumocystis species

Cissé, Ousmane H., Hauser, Philippe M.
Infection, genetics, and evolution 2018 v.65 pp. 308-320
Pneumocystis, evolutionary adaptation, fungi, genetic engineering, genomics, host specificity, hosts, immune system, introns, mammals, mating systems, pneumonia, population structure, selfing
The genus Pneumocystis comprises highly diversified fungal species that cause severe pneumonia in individuals with a deficient immune system. These fungi infect exclusively mammals and present a strict host species specificity. These species have co-diverged with their hosts for long periods of time (> 100 MYA). Details of their biology and evolution are fragmentary mainly because of a lack of an established long-term culture system. Recent genomic advances have unlocked new areas of research and allow new hypotheses to be tested. We review here new findings of the genomic studies in relation with the evolutionary trajectory of these fungi and discuss the impact of genomic data analysis in the context of the population genetics. The combination of slow genome decay and limited expansion of specific gene families and introns reflect intimate interactions of these species with their hosts. The evolutionary adaptation of these organisms is profoundly influenced by their population structure, which in turn is determined by intrinsic features such as their self-fertilizing mating system, high host specificity, long generation times, and transmission mode. Essential key questions concerning their adaptation and speciation remain to be answered. The next cornerstone will consist in the establishment of a long-term culture system and genetic manipulation that should allow unravelling the driving forces of Pneumocystis species evolution.