Sexual Reproduction in Aspergillus flavus Sclerotia: Acquisition of Novel Alleles from Soil Populations and Uniparental Mitochondrial Inheritance.
ABSTRACT: Aspergillus flavus colonizes agricultural commodities worldwide and contaminates them with carcinogenic aflatoxins. The high genetic diversity of A. flavus populations is largely due to sexual reproduction characterized by the formation of ascospore-bearing ascocarps embedded within sclerotia. A. flavus is heterothallic and laboratory crosses between strains of the opposite mating type produce progeny showing genetic recombination. Sclerotia formed in crops are dispersed onto the soil surface at harvest and are predominantly produced by single strains of one mating type. Less commonly, sclerotia may be fertilized during co-infection of crops with sexually compatible strains. In this study, laboratory and field experiments were performed to examine sexual reproduction in single-strain and fertilized sclerotia following exposure of sclerotia to natural fungal populations in soil. Female and male roles and mitochondrial inheritance in A. flavus were also examined through reciprocal crosses between sclerotia and conidia. Single-strain sclerotia produced ascospores on soil and progeny showed biparental inheritance that included novel alleles originating from fertilization by native soil strains. Sclerotia fertilized in the laboratory and applied to soil before ascocarp formation also produced ascospores with evidence of recombination in progeny, but only known parental alleles were detected. In reciprocal crosses, sclerotia and conidia from both strains functioned as female and male, respectively, indicating A. flavus is hermaphroditic, although the degree of fertility depended upon the parental sources of sclerotia and conidia. All progeny showed maternal inheritance of mitochondria from the sclerotia. Compared to A. flavus populations in crops, soil populations would provide a higher likelihood of exposure of sclerotia to sexually compatible strains and a more diverse source of genetic material for outcrossing.
PROVIDER: S-EPMC4701395 | BioStudies |