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Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. Dec 1997; 61(4): 411–428.
PMCID: PMC232618

Mating types and sexual development in filamentous ascomycetes.

Abstract

The progress made in the molecular characterization of the mating types in several filamentous ascomycetes has allowed us to better understand their role in sexual development and has brought to light interesting biological problems. The mating types of Neurospora crassa, Podospora anserina, and Cochliobolus heterostrophus consist of unrelated and unique sequences containing one or several genes with multiple functions, related to sexuality or not, such as vegetative incompatibility in N. crassa. The presence of putative DNA binding domains in the proteins encoded by the mating-type (mat) genes suggests that they may be transcriptional factors. The mat genes play a role in cell-cell recognition at fertilization, probably by activating the genes responsible for the hormonal signal whose occurrence was previously demonstrated by physiological experiments. They also control recognition between nuclei at a later stage, when reproductive nuclei of each mating type which have divided in the common cytoplasm pair within the ascogenous hyphae. How self is distinguished from nonself at the nuclear level is not known. The finding that homothallic species, able to mate in the absence of a partner, contain both mating types in the same haploid genome has raised more issues than it has resolved. The instability of the mating type, in particular in Sclerotinia trifolorium and Botrytinia fuckeliana, is also unexplained. This diversity of mating systems, still more apparent if the yeasts and the basidiomycetes are taken into account, clearly shows that no single species can serve as a universal mating-type model.

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Selected References

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