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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2004 Feb;30(2):438-49.

Molecular phylogeny of Zygomycota based on EF-1alpha and RPB1 sequences: limitations and utility of alternative markers to rDNA.

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  • 1Environmental Biology Division, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8506, Japan.


Earlier molecular phylogenetic analyses based on nuclear small subunit ribosomal DNA (nSSU rDNA) suggest that the Zygomycota are polyphyletic within the Chytridiomycota. However, these analyses failed to resolve almost all interordinal relationships among basal fungi (Chytridiomycota and Zygomycota), due to lack of sufficient characters within the nSSU rDNA. To further elucidate the higher-level phylogeny of Zygomycota, we have sequenced partial RPB1 (DNA dependent RNA polymerase II largest subunit) and EF-1alpha (translation elongation factor 1 alpha) genes from 10 and 3 zygomycete fungi, respectively. Independent molecular phylogenetic analyses were performed based on each sequence by distance and maximum likelihood methods. Although deep phylogenetic relationships among basal fungi still remain poorly resolved using either gene, the RPB1-based phylogeny identified a novel monophyletic clade consisting of the Dimargaritales, Harpellales, and Kickxellales. This result suggests that regularly formed septa (cross walls that divide hyphae into segments) with a lenticular cavity are plesiomorphic for this clade, and indicates the importance of septal pore ultrastructure in zygomycete phylogeny. In addition, a peculiar mucoralean genus Mortierella, which was considered to be distantly related to the other Mucorales based on previous nSSU rDNA analyses, was resolved as the basal most divergence within the Mucorales, consistent with traditional phenotypic-based taxonomy. Although the taxa included in our analysis are restricted, the monophyly of each order suggested by nSSU rDNA phylogeny is supported by the present RPB1-based analysis. These results support the potential use of RPB1 as an alternative marker for fungal phylogenetic studies. Conversely, the overall fungal phylogeny based on EF-1alpha sequence is poorly resolved. A comparison of numbers of observed substitutions versus inferred substitutions within EF-1alpha indicates that this gene is much more saturated than RPB1. This result suggests that the EF-1alpha gene is unsuitable for resolving higher-level phylogenetic relationships within the Fungi.

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