The fungi that belong to the Dothideomycetes family are found on every continent and can tolerate a wide range of environmental extremes. Additionally, several of the fungi are plant pathogens that infect nearly every major crop used for food, fiber or fuel.
In the December 6, 2012 issue of PLoS Pathogens, an international team led by researchers at the DOE Joint Genome Institute compared the genomes of 18 members of the Dothideomycetes family, 14 of which had been sequenced during the project. This work ties into a larger Community Sequencing Program project to sequence several Dothideomycete fungal species. It is also the main paper of a set on this fungal group, one of which was published November 29, 2012 in PLoS Genetics.
The 18 fungi selected for comparison fall into four general lifestyle categories: three of them feed only on dead organic matter; another six kill the host plant cells first; one forms an association with the host plant; and eight first feed off the host while it is alive before eventually killing it.
The team found that each of these lifestyles could be tied to specific sets of genes in the fungal genomes. “For example,” they wrote, “sets of genes involved in carbohydrate degradation and secondary metabolism are expanded in necrotrophs. Many genes involved in pathogenesis are located near repetitive sequences, which are believed to speed up their evolution.”