Speciation Underpinned by Unexpected Molecular Diversity in the Mycorrhizal Fungal Genus Pisolithus

Jonathan M. Plett*, Shingo Miyauchi, Emmanuelle Morin, Krista Plett, Johanna Wong-Bajracharya, Maira de Freitas Pereira, Alan Kuo, Bernard Henrissat, Elodie Drula, Dominika Wojtalewicz, Robert Riley, Jasmyn Pangilinan, William Andreopoulos, Kurt LaButti, Chris Daum, Yuko Yoshinaga, Laure Fauchery, Vivian Ng, Anna Lipzen, Kerrie BarryVasanth Singan, Jie Guo, Teresa Lebel, Mauricio Dutra Costa, Igor V. Grigoriev, Francis Martin, Ian C. Anderson, Annegret Kohler

*Corresponding author for this work

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The mutualistic ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungal genus Pisolithus comprises 19 species defined to date which colonize the roots of >50 hosts worldwide suggesting that substantial genomic and functional evolution occurred during speciation. To better understand this intra-genus variation, we undertook a comparative multi-omic study of nine Pisolithus species sampled from North America, South America, Asia, and Australasia. We found that there was a small core set of genes common to all species (13%), and that these genes were more likely to be significantly regulated during symbiosis with a host than accessory or species-specific genes. Thus, the genetic "toolbox" foundational to the symbiotic lifestyle in this genus is small. Transposable elements were located significantly closer to gene classes including effector-like small secreted proteins (SSPs). Poorly conserved SSPs were more likely to be induced by symbiosis, suggesting that they may be a class of protein that tune host specificity. The Pisolithus gene repertoire is characterized by divergent CAZyme profiles when compared with other fungi, both symbiotic and saprotrophic. This was driven by differences in enzymes associated with symbiotic sugar processing, although metabolomic analysis suggest that neither copy number nor expression of these genes is sufficient to predict sugar capture from a host plant or its metabolism in fungal hyphae. Our results demonstrate that intra-genus genomic and functional diversity within ECM fungi is greater than previously thought, underlining the importance of continued comparative studies within the fungal tree of life to refine our focus on pathways and evolutionary processes foundational to this symbiotic lifestyle.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermsad045
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number3
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Mycorrhizal symbiosis
  • Host specificity
  • Trehalose
  • CAZyme
  • Transposable elements
  • Effector
  • Evolution


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