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Genetics. 2001 Jan;157(1):141-7.

Sexual diploids of Aspergillus nidulans do not form by random fusion of nuclei in the heterokaryon.

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Institute of Microbiology and Genetics, Georg-August-University, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany.


The sexual stage of Aspergillus (Emericella) nidulans consists of cleistothecia containing asci, each with eight ascospores. The fungus completes the sexual cycle in a homokaryotic or a heterokaryotic mycelium, respectively. The common assumption for the last 50 years was that different nuclear types are not distinguishable when sexual development is initiated. When cultured on a medium limited for glucose supplemented with 2% sorbitol, sexual development of A. nidulans is slowed and intact tetrads can be isolated. Through tetrad analysis we found that unlike haploid nuclei fuse preferentially to the prezygotic diploid nucleus. When heterokaryons are formed between nuclei of different genetic backgrounds, then recombinant asci derived from opposite nuclei are formed exclusively. Strains in the same heterokaryon compatibility group with moderate differences in their genetic backgrounds can discriminate between the nuclei of a heterokaryon and preferentially form a hybrid diploid nucleus, resulting in 85% recombinant tetrads. A. nidulans strains that differ at only a single genetic marker fuse the haploid nuclei at random for formation of diploid nuclei during meiosis. These results argue for a genetically determined "relative heterothallism" of nuclear recognition within a heterokaryon and a specific recruitment of different nuclei for karyogamy when available.

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