Multiple pathways to homothallism in closely related yeast lineages in the basidiomycota

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Sexual reproduction in fungi relies on proteins with well-known functions encoded by the mating type (MAT) loci. In the Basidiomycota, MAT loci are often bipar-tite, with the P/R locus encoding pheromone precursors and pheromone receptors and the HD locus encoding heterodimerizing homeodomain transcription factors (Hd1/Hd2). The interplay between different alleles of these genes within a single species usually gen-erates at least two compatible mating types. However, a minority of species are homo-thallic, reproducing sexually without an obligate need for a compatible partner. Here, we examine the organization and function of the MAT loci of Cystofilobasidium capitatum, a species in the order Cystofilobasidiales, which is unusually rich in homothallic species. We determined MAT gene content and organization in C. capitatum and found that it resembles a mating type of the closely related heterothallic species Cystofilobasidium feri-gula. To explain the homothallic sexual reproduction observed in C. capitatum, we exam-ined HD protein interactions in the two Cystofilobasidium species and determined C. capi-tatum MAT gene expression both in a natural setting and upon heterologous expression in Phaffia rhodozyma, a homothallic species belonging to a clade sister to that of Cystofilobasidium. We conclude that the molecular basis for homothallism in C. capitatum appears to be distinct from that previously established for P. rhodozyma. Unlike in the latter species, homothallism in C. capitatum may involve constitutive activation or dis-pensability of the pheromone receptor and the functional replacement of the usual Hd1/ Hd2 heterodimer by an Hd2 homodimer. Overall, our results suggest that homothallism evolved multiple times within the Cystofilobasidiales.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03130-20
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Cystofilobasidiales
  • Cystofilobasidium
  • Evolution of sexual reproduction
  • Homothallism
  • MAT loci
  • Phaffia
  • Sexual reproduction in basidiomycetes


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