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Curr Biol. 2007 Aug 21;17(16):1384-9. Epub 2007 Aug 2.

Mating type and the genetic basis of self-fertility in the model fungus Aspergillus nidulans.

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School of Biology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, United Kingdom.


Sexual reproduction occurs in two fundamentally different ways: by outcrossing, in which two distinct partners contribute nuclei, or by self-fertilization (selfing), in which both nuclei are derived from the same individual. Selfing is common in flowering plants, fungi, and some animal taxa. We investigated the genetic basis of selfing in the homothallic fungus Aspergillus nidulans. We demonstrate that alpha and high-mobility group domain mating-type (MAT) genes, found in outcrossing species, are both present in the genome of A. nidulans and that their expression is required for normal sexual development and ascospore production. Balanced overexpression of MAT genes suppressed vegetative growth and stimulated sexual differentiation under conditions unfavorable for sex. Sexual reproduction was correlated with significantly increased expression of MAT genes and key genes of a pheromone-response MAP-kinase signaling pathway involved in heterothallic outcrossing. Mutation of a component MAP-kinase mpkB gene resulted in sterility. These results indicate that selfing in A. nidulans involves activation of the same mating pathways characteristic of sex in outcrossing species, i.e., self-fertilization does not bypass requirements for outcrossing sex but instead requires activation of these pathways within a single individual. However, unlike heterothallic species, aspects of pheromone signaling appeared to be independent of MAT control.

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