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Fungal Genet Biol. 2008 Aug;45 Suppl 1:S15-21. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2008.04.005. Epub 2008 May 22.

Sex in smut fungi: Structure, function and evolution of mating-type complexes.

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Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Summerland, BC, Canada.


Smut fungi are basidiomycete plant pathogens that pose a threat to many important cereal crops. In order to be pathogenic on plants, smut fungal cells of compatible mating-type need to fuse. Fusion and pathogenicity are regulated by two loci, a and b, which harbor conserved genes. The functions of the encoded mating-type complexes have been well-studied in the model fungus Ustilago maydis and will be briefly reviewed here. Sequence comparison of the mating-type loci of different smut and related fungi has revealed that these loci differ substantially in structure. These structural differences point to an evolution from tetrapolar to bipolar mating behavior, which might have occurred several independent times during fungal speciation.

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