Horizontal genetic transfer in asexual fungi

Blanca Raquel Cortes, Florida International University


Four aspects of horizontal genetic transfer during heterokaryon formation were examined in the asexual pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense (Foc): (1) variability based on method of heterokaryon formation; (2) differences in nuclear and mitochondrial inheritance; (3) the occurrence of recombination without nuclear fusion; (4) the occurrence of horizontal genetic transfer between distantly related isolates. The use of non-pathogenic strains of Fusarium oxysporum as biocontrol agents warrants a closer examination at the reproductive life cycle of this fungus, particularly if drug resistance or pathogenicity genes can be transmitted horizontally. Experiments were divided into three phases. Phase I looked at heterokaryon formation by hyphal anastomosis and protoplast fusion. Phase II was a time course of heterokaryon formation to look at patterns of nuclear and mitochondrial inheritance. Phase III examined the genetic relatedness of the different vegetative compatibility groups using a multilocus analysis approach. Heterokaryon formation was evident within and between vegetative compatibility groups. Observation of non-parental genotypes after heterokaryon formation confirmed that, although a rare event, horizontal genetic transfer occurred during heterokaryon formation. Uniparental mitochondria inheritance was observed in heterokaryons formed either by hyphal anastomosis or protoplast fusion. Drug resistance was expressed during heterokaryon formation, even across greater genetic distances than those distances imposed by vegetative compatibility. Phylogenies inferred from different molecular markers were incongruent at a significant level, challenging the clonal origins of Foc. Mating type genes were identified in this asexual pathogen Polymorphisms were detected within a Vegetative Compatibility Group (VCG) suggesting non-clonal inheritance and/or sexual recombination in Foc. This research was funded in part by a NIH-NIGMS (National Institutes of Health-National Institute of General Medical Sciences) Grant through the MBRS (Minority Biomedical Research Support), the Department of Biological Sciences and the Tropical Biology Program at FIU.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Cortes, Blanca Raquel, "Horizontal genetic transfer in asexual fungi" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9991045.