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Microbiology. 1994 Jun;140 ( Pt 6):1481-94.

Evidence for a phylogenetic connection between Coccidioides immitis and Uncinocarpus reesii (Onygenaceae).

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Department of Botany, University of Texas, Austin 78713-7640.


Coccidioides immitis is an anomaly amongst the human systemic fungal pathogens. Its unique parasitic cycle has contributed to confusion over its taxonomy. Early investigators mistakenly suggested that the pathogen is a protist, while others agreed it to be a fungus but placed it in four different divisions of the Eumycota. The taxonomy of C. immitis is still unresolved. Ultrastructural examinations of its parasitic and saprobic phases have revealed features that are diagnostic of the ascomycetous fungi. Moreover, striking similarities between the kind of asexual reproduction (i.e. arthroconidium formation) of this pathogen and certain anamorphic and teleomorphic members of the genus Malbranchea have suggested a close relationship. Teleomorphs of these Malbranchea species are members of the Onygenaceae (Order, Onygenales). This family also includes teleomorphs of two human respiratory pathogens, Histoplasma capsulatum and Blastomyces dermatitidis. Although the 18S rRNA gene sequences (1713 bp) of these two pathogenic forms differ from that of C. immitis by only 35 and 33 substitutions, respectively, their mode of conidiogenesis is characterized by production of solitary aleurioconidia rather than alternate arthroconidia. In this study we have used characters derived from biochemical, immunological and molecular analyses to compare relatedness between C. immitis, H. capsulatum, B. dermatitidis, and six non-pathogenic species of Malbranchea (the Malbranchea states of Uncinocarpus reesii and Auxarthron zuffianum, as well as M. albolutea, M. dendritica, M. filamentosa and M. gypsea). Evidence is presented which supports inclusion of C. immitis in the Onygenaceae, and indicates that a close phylogenetic relationship exists between the Malbranchea state of U. reesii and this respiratory pathogen.

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