Nat Commun 8(1) , 1843 (Nov 29 2017)
Many heritable mutualisms, in which beneficial symbionts are transmitted vertically between host generations, originate as antagonisms with parasite dispersal constrained by the host. Only after the parasite gains control over its transmission is the symbiosis expected to transition from antagonism to mutualism. Here, we explore this prediction in the mutualism between the fungus Rhizopus microsporus (Rm, Mucoromycotina) and a beta-proteobacterium Burkholderia, which controls host asexual reproduction. We show that reproductive addiction of Rm to endobacteria extends to mating, and is mediated by the symbiont gaining transcriptional control of the fungal ras2 gene, which encodes a GTPase central to fungal reproductive development. We also discover candidate G-protein-coupled receptors for the perception of trisporic acids, mating pheromones unique to Mucoromycotina. Our results demonstrate that regulating host asexual proliferation and modifying its sexual reproduction are sufficient for the symbiont’s control of its own transmission, needed for antagonism-to-mutualism transition in heritable symbioses. These properties establish the Rm-Burkholderia symbiosis as a powerful system for identifying reproductive genes in Mucoromycotina.