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Eukaryot Cell. 2007 Jul;6(7):1189-99. Epub 2007 May 18.

Genomic and population analyses of the mating type loci in Coccidioides species reveal evidence for sexual reproduction and gene acquisition.

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  • 1Division of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.


Coccidioides species, the fungi responsible for the valley fever disease, are known to reproduce asexually through the production of arthroconidia that are the infectious propagules. The possible role of sexual reproduction in the survival and dispersal of these pathogens is unexplored. To determine the potential for mating of Coccidioides, we analyzed genome sequences and identified mating type loci characteristic of heterothallic ascomycetes. Coccidioides strains contain either a MAT1-1 or a MAT1-2 idiomorph, which is 8.1 or 9 kb in length, respectively, the longest reported for any ascomycete species. These idiomorphs contain four or five genes, respectively, more than are present in the MAT loci of most ascomycetes. Along with their cDNA structures, we determined that all genes in the MAT loci are transcribed. Two genes frequently found in common sequences flanking MAT idiomorphs, APN2 and COX13, are within the MAT loci in Coccidioides, but the MAT1-1 and MAT1-2 copies have diverged dramatically from each other. Data indicate that the acquisition of these genes in the MAT loci occurred prior to the separation of Coccidioides from Uncinocarpus reesii. An analysis of 436 Coccidioides isolates from patients and the environment indicates that in both Coccidioides immitis and C. posadasii, there is a 1:1 distribution of MAT loci, as would be expected for sexually reproducing species. In addition, an analysis of isolates obtained from 11 soil samples demonstrated that at three sampling sites, strains of both mating types were present, indicating that compatible strains were in close proximity in the environment.

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