Category Archives: pezizomycota

How do I name thee?
In a letter to the editor to the journal Nature, regarding the recently discovered/induced sexual stage in Aspergillus fumigatus, David Hawksworth argues that using the separate names for sexual (teleomorph) and asexual (anamorph) stages is confusing and unnecessary in this context.  The name Neosartorya fumigata is given to the sexual stage which was produced from two individuals which were both A. fumigatus. The letter writer makes the point that referring to a new name for the sexual stage when we already know what its anamorph is seems superfluous and overly confusing. He gives the analogy of Aspergillus nidulans where its teleomorph Emericella nidulans is “largely ignored”.

The double names for something which is the same species (i.e. has the same genomic sequence) is certainly a confusing aspect of mycology. It stems from the morphological description of species and that before DNA or molecular approaches to identification it was difficult to connect the anamorph and teleomorph stages unless you could induce the entire lifecycle in the laboratory. I think that the same name for homologous structures from different phyla is also equally confusing, but necessary aspect of how things are currently named and classified.

What researchers should described the sample/individual they are using for experiments in their manuscripts is important to avoid confusion and for readers so I think Prof Hawksworth makes an important point especially when discussing something where the anamorphs and teleomorphs are unified. Certainly an agreed upon protocol here would be quite helpful of what to preferably use when the stages have been connected.

Hawksworth, D. (2009). Separate name for fungus’s sexual stage may cause confusion Nature, 458 (7234), 29-29 DOI: 10.1038/458029c

Aspergillus has a posse


Shepard Fairley has gotten alot of notice lately for his Obama art that has been replicated pretty much everywhere. I mocked up a homage to his earlier street art — here we’ll discuss the growing Aspergillus genome posse.

But the work from mainly the JCVI, Broad Institute, JGI, NITE, and Sanger centre has generated an excellent collection of genome sequences for the Eurotiales clade (feel free to get a login for the wiki and add other that are missing).  The Aspergillus community now has a AGD – Aspergillus Genome Database project that includes a curator of genome annotation (they are hiring) and presumably literature in the SGD and CGD model of curation.

I think a lot of other projects have a Posse too (or maybe just a loosely organized band) in terms of a community of people working on related species and willing to work together to coordinate.  As these sort of “clade” databases start to develop we will have better clusters of information that can be mapped among multiple species.

Eventually I hope this will spur efforts for more coordinated genome databases for comparative genomic and transfer of known gene and functional information between experimental systems.  The efforts really require coordination or centralization of the data so that gene models can be updated as well as orthologs and phylogenomic inference of function.

First release of N.tetrasperma and N.discreta

The JGI in collaboration with our lab at Berkeley have released the Neurospora tetrasperma (mat A) and N. discreta (mat A) genome sequences and annotation after about two years of work.  These are two closely related species to the well studied laboratory workhorse Neurospora crassa.

The N.tetrasperma assembly (8X) has an N50 of 976kb and is highly colinear with the N.crassa genome.  With the JGI, we’ve also done some additional 454 sequencing which will represent an improved assembly and 23X coverage in the next release.  We also did some comparative scaffolding and can basically double that N50 – most of which looks good when compared to the improved V2 assembly.

The N.discreta assembly (8X) is also quite good with an N50 of 2.3 Mb. For comparison, the V7 of N.crassa has an N50 of 664 kb. although with genetic map information the 250+ contigs can be scaffolded into 7 chromosomes with 146 unmapped contigs.

Both N.discreta and N.tetrasperma genomes contain about 10k predicted genes similar to counts in other related species like N.crassa and Podospora anserina.

We’re finalizing several analyses to present at the Asilomar meeting to describe these Neurospora genomes and comparisons with other Sordariomycete species.

How to get A. fumigatus in the mood for love A manuscript at Nature AOP details the success of the Dyer lab and collaborators in encouraging Aspergillus fumigatus to complete the sexual cycle under observable (e.g. laboratory) conditions. The authors are the teleomorph (sexual or perfect) stage Neosartorya fumigata for a fungus that had been previously only had an observed anamorphic stage. A. fumigatus can reproduce asexually forming structures called conidiophores which produce asexual spores called conidiospores (or mitospores as they are produced via mitosis) define the anamorph or imperfect stage, but no sexual structures such as cleistothecia that produce the packaged sexual products as ascospores. See a presentation by David Geiser (archived at the Aspergillus website) for more detail on some of the morphological and phylogenetic characters that unify the group of Eurotiales fungi.

Like several other groups of fungi, A. fumigatus was presumed to have a putative cryptic sexual stages inferred from population genetic evidence of sexual recombination, but until no telemorphs had been observed. In addition, an observed perfect stage doesn’t necessarily indicate it is easy to induce mating in laboratory conditions. Complicated media including the ever stressful V8 juice was needed to induce mating in the basidiomycete yeast Cryptococcus neoformans (Erke, J Bacteriol 1976). In fact, Christina Hull’s lab has shown we still don’t even know what ingredients in V8 juice even induce mating (Kent et al, AEM 2008)! Other fungi including Coccidioides have been implicated as cryptically sexual (Burt et al, PNAS 1996) but no one has been able to induce mating in laboratory conditions. In this case a petri plate with a individual of each mating type (since this is a heterothallic fungus), and a series of different media conditions provided an environment suitable for mating to occur.

The work in this paper follows from their previous work identifying isolates of different mating types (Paoletti, Current Biol, 2005). The discovery of sexual stage for Aspergillus fumigatus (which Bret cannot pronounce) is a boon for molecular geneticists in construction of knockout strains and ability to follow recombination. While A. nidulans is a sexual species and model system for genetics, it is useful to have more tools to directly manipulate A. fumigatus and directly test hypotheses about genes involved in pathogenicity.

This observation of meiosis in the laboratory is also is interesting to considered in light of work that RIP is active in other Aspergillus species (and also see this post) suggesting that RIP may be operating under meiotic conditions.

Isolates of different mating types have also been described for the putatively asexual Coccidioiodes (Mandell et al, EC 2007; Fraser et al, EC 2007) so it remains a possibility that we can also induce sexual recombination in laboratory conditions in this fungus.

Céline M. O’Gorman, Hubert T. Fuller, Paul S. Dyer (2008). Discovery of a sexual cycle in the opportunistic fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature07528

P. chrysogenum genome

BBC news and GTO report the sequence of P. chrysogenum, will be published in October in Nat Biotechnology in a project based at the biotech company DSM. P. chrysogenum being the mold that fortuitously contaminated Dr Fleming’s bacterial plates.

The 13,500 reported genes in the press release is quite bit larger than relatives in the Aspergillus clade (~10,000 genes) so it will be intriguing to see what’s going on here and if there will be interesting examples of horizontal transfer like what has been investigated in Aspergillus oryzae. I am unclear as to whether the selected strain is a wild isolate or represents an industrial strain, but look forward to reading the full account of the genome.

Factoid – Most of the industrial fungal genome papers have seen publication in Nature Biotechnology (Aspergillus niger, Trichodermera reesei, and Phanerochaete chrysosporium).

Edit: 1-Oct-2008, Jonathan Badger, an author on the paper, blogs about the paper and links to the pre-print available on NBT site.

Dermatophyte genome sequences

The first of several dermatophyte fungal genomes, Microsporum gypseum, has been released at the Broad’s Dermatophyte site.  Two Tricophyton species and another Microsporum genome should follow soon. These dermatophyte fungi are Onygenales (Ascomycota) fungi (like Coccidioides and Histoplasma), although their placement in the phylogenies shown in the whitepaper and related review paper is a bit ambiguous. I’m sure that can be improved with a few more gene sequences gleaned from the genomes.

The 23 Mb M. gypseum genome is a bit smaller than the sizes of C. immitis (28 Mb), H. capsulatum (32 Mb), or Paracoccidioides brasiliensis (29 Mb).  While no annotation is currently available for the M. gypseum genome, this genome will help in establishing what genes were ancestral in the Onygenales and comparing patterns of gene family gains and losses in fungi that specialize on animal hosts.

Some more comparison across different kinds of dermatophyte fungi that are very distantly related like dandruff causing fungus Malasezzia globosa (Basidiomycota) will be really interesting as well.

Thanks Joe H and FGI folks for passing along announcement and to the Broad/FGI folks for the work to make this sequence available.

Cochliobolus genome released

Just noticed that the JGI has released the Cochliobolus heterostrophus genome sequence at their site predicting 9,633 protein-coding genes.  Torrey Mesa Research Institute had access to a sequence many years ago, but it isn’t until now that public version of this genome is available.  Cochliobolus is has been a model plant pathogen system and its production of T-Toxin by a PKS gene (Yang et al).

Fungal genome assembly from short-read sequences

This is a research blog so I though I’d post some quick numbers we are seeing for de novo assembly of the Neurospora crassa genome using Velvet. The genome of N.crassa is about 40Mb and sequencing of several flow cells using Solexa/Illumina technology to see what kind of de novo reconstruction we’d get. I knew that this is probably insufficient for a very good assembly given what has been reported in the literature, but sometimes it is helpful to give it a try on local data.  Mostly this is a project about SNP discovery from the outset. I used a hash size of 21 in velvet with an early (2FC) and later (4FC) dataset. Velvet was run with a hashsize of 21 for these data based on some calculations and running it with different hash sizes to see the optimal N50.  Summary contig size numbers come from the commands using cndtools from Colin Dewey.

  faLen < contigs.fa | stats

2 flowcells (~10M reads @36bp/read or about 10X coverage of 40Mb genome)

            N = 199562
          SUM = 25463251
          MIN = 49
       MEDIAN = 107.0
          MAX = 5371
         MEAN = 127.59568956
          N50 = 130

4 flow cells  (~20M reads @36bp/read; or about 20X coverage of a 40Mb genome)

            N = 102437
          SUM = 38352075
          MIN = 41
 1ST-QUARTILE = 77.0
       MEDIAN = 153
          MAX = 7189
         MEAN = 374.396702363
          N50 = 837

So that’s N50 of 837bp – for those used to seeing N50 on the order or 1.5Mb this is not great.  But from4 FC worth of sequencing which was pretty cheap.  This is a reasonably repeat-limited genome so we should get pretty good recovery if the seq coverage is high enough. Using Maq we can both scaffold the reads and recover a sufficient number of high quality SNPs for the mapping part of the project.

To get a better assembly one would need much deeper coverage as Daniel and Ewan explain in their Velvet paper and shown in Figure 4 (sorry, not open-access for 6 mo). Full credit: This sequence was from unpaired sequence reads from Illumina/Solexa Genomic sequencing done at UCB/QB3 facility on libraries prepared by Charles Hall in the Glass lab.