ISME J (Apr 9 2020)
Rhizopus microsporus is an early-diverging fungal species with importance in ecology, agriculture, food production, and public health. Pathogenic strains of R. microsporus harbor an intracellular bacterial symbiont, Mycetohabitans (formerly named Burkholderia). This vertically transmitted bacterial symbiont is responsible for the production of toxins crucial to the pathogenicity of Rhizopus and remarkably also for fungal reproduction. Here we show that R. microsporus can live not only in symbiosis with bacteria but also with two viral members of the genus Narnavirus. Our experiments revealed that both viruses replicated similarly in the growth conditions we tested. Viral copies were affected by the developmental stage of the fungus, the substrate, and the presence or absence of Mycetohabitans. Absolute quantification of narnaviruses in isolated asexual sporangiospores and sexual zygospores indicates their vertical transmission. By curing R. microsporus of its viral and bacterial symbionts and reinfecting bacteria to reestablish symbiosis, we demonstrate that these viruses affect fungal biology. Narnaviruses decrease asexual reproduction, but together with Mycetohabitans, are required for sexual reproductive success. This fungal-bacterial-viral system represents an outstanding model to investigate three-way microbial symbioses and their evolution.