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Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Apr;17(4):629-38.

Interkingdom host jumping underground: phylogenetic analysis of entomoparasitic fungi of the genus cordyceps.

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National Institute of Bioscience and Human-Technology, Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, Tsukuba, Japan.


Most members of the ascomycetous genus Cordyceps are endoparasitic fungi of insects and other arthropods, but about 20 of the 300 described species are parasitic to hart's truffles, Elaphomyces spp. In order to understand the evolution of host specificity and the process of interkingdom host jumping in Cordyceps, we investigated the phylogenetic relationships of 22 representatives, including 4 truffle parasites and 18 insect parasites, based on nuclear and mitochondrial rDNA sequences. Five monophyletic groups were identified in both nuclear and mitochondrial phylogenies. In three of the five clades, the members utilized hosts from the same insect group, suggesting that the endoparasite-host connections have been conserved to some extent. On the other hand, it was also shown that major host shifts between distantly related insects must have occurred repeatedly. Notably, phylogenetic analyses strongly suggested that parasites of hart's truffles originated from parasites of cicada nymphs during the evolution of the CORDYCEPS: The common habitats of cicada nymphs and hart's truffles, deep underground and associated with tree roots, suggest that the interkingdom host jumping from Animalia to Fungi might have been promoted by the overlapping ecological niche of the unrelated hosts. This finding provides an impressive case of a drastic host shift in favor of the host habitat hypothesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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