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Microbiology. 2008 Nov;154(Pt 11):3447-59. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.2008/021196-0.

Alternative reproductive strategies of Hypocrea orientalis and genetically close but clonal Trichoderma longibrachiatum, both capable of causing invasive mycoses of humans.

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Research Area of Gene Technology and Applied Biochemistry, Institute of Chemical Engineering, Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria.


The common soil fungus Trichoderma (teleomorph Hypocrea, Ascomycota) shows increasing medical importance as an opportunistic human pathogen, particularly in immunocompromised and immunosuppressed patients. Regardless of the disease type and the therapy used, the prognosis for Trichoderma infection is usually poor. Trichoderma longibrachiatum has been identified as the causal agent in the majority of reported Trichoderma mycoses. As T. longibrachiatum is very common in environmental samples from all over the world, the relationship between its clinical and wild strains remains unclear. Here we performed a multilocus (ITS1 and 2, tef1, cal1 and chit18-5) phylogenetic analysis of all available clinical isolates (15) and 36 wild-type strains of the fungus including several cultures of its putative teleomorph Hypocrea orientalis. The concordance of gene genealogies recognized T. longibrachiatum and H. orientalis to be different phylogenetic species, which are reproductively isolated from each other. The majority of clinical strains (12) were attributed to T. longibrachiatum but three isolates belonged to H. orientalis, which broadens the phylogenetic span of human opportunists in the genus. Despite their genetic isolation, T. longibrachiatum and H. orientalis were shown to be cosmopolitan sympatric species with no bias towards certain geographical locations. The analysis of haplotype association, incongruence of tree topologies and the split decomposition method supported the conclusion that H. orientalis is sexually recombining whereas strict clonality prevails in T. longibrachiatum. This is a rare case of occurrence of sexual reproduction in opportunistic pathogenic fungi. The discovery of the different reproduction strategies in these two closely related species is medically relevant because it is likely that they would also differ in virulence and/or drug resistance. Genetic identity of environmental and clinical isolates of T. longibrachiatum and H. orientalis suggests the danger of nosocomial infections by Hypocrea/Trichoderma and highlights the need for ecological studies of spore dispersal as source of invasive human mycoses.

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