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Bioessays. 2012 Feb;34(2):94-102. doi: 10.1002/bies.201100110. Epub 2011 Dec 1.

No jacket required--new fungal lineage defies dress code: recently described zoosporic fungi lack a cell wall during trophic phase.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Analyses of environmental DNAs have provided tantalizing evidence for "rozellida" or "cryptomycota", a clade of mostly undescribed and deeply diverging aquatic fungi. Here, we put cryptomycota into perspective through consideration of Rozella, the only clade member growing in culture. This is timely on account of the publication in Nature of the first images of uncultured cryptomycota from environmental filtrates, where molecular probes revealed non-motile cyst-like structures and motile spores, all lacking typical fungal chitinous cell walls. Current studies of Rozella can complement these fragmentary observations from environmental samples. Rozella has a fungal-specific chitin synthase and its resting sporangia have walls that appear to contain chitin. Cryptomycota, including Rozella, lack a cell wall when absorbing food but like some other fungi, they may have lost their "dinner jacket" through convergence. Rather than evolutionary intermediates, the cryptomycota may be strange, divergent fungi that evolved from an ancestor with a nearly complete suite of classical fungal-specific characters.

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