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Whole-genome sequence data uncover widespread heterothallism in the largest group of lichen-forming fungi

Pizarro, David; Dal Grande, Francesco; Don Leavitt, Steven; Stanley Dyer, Paul; Schmitt, Imke; Crespo, Ana; Thorsten Lumbsch, Helge; Kumar Divakar, Pradeep


David Pizarro

Francesco Dal Grande

Steven Don Leavitt

Professor of Fungal Biology

Imke Schmitt

Ana Crespo

Helge Thorsten Lumbsch

Pradeep Kumar Divakar


Fungal reproduction is regulated by the mating-type (MAT1) locus, which typically comprises two idiomorphic genes. The presence of one or both allelic variants at the locus determines the reproductive strategy in Fungi – homothallism vs. heterothallism. It has been hypothesized that self-fertility via homothallism is widespread in lichen-forming fungi. To test this hypothesis, we characterized the MAT1 locus of 41 genomes of lichen-forming fungi representing a wide range of growth forms and reproductive strategies in the class Lecanoromycetes, the largest group of lichen-forming fungi. Our results show the complete lack of genetic homothallism suggesting that lichens evolved from a heterothallic ancestor. We argue that this may be related to the symbiotic lifestyle of these fungi, and may be a key innovation that has contributed to the accelerated diversification rates in this fungal group.


Pizarro, D., Dal Grande, F., Don Leavitt, S., Stanley Dyer, P., Schmitt, I., Crespo, A., …Kumar Divakar, P. (2019). Whole-genome sequence data uncover widespread heterothallism in the largest group of lichen-forming fungi. Genome Biology and Evolution, 11(3), 721-730.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 31, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 4, 2019
Publication Date Feb 4, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 30, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 1, 2019
Journal Genome Biology and Evolution
Electronic ISSN 1759-6653
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 3
Pages 721-730
Keywords Lichen-forming fungi; Mating system; Heterothallism; MAT; Sexual reproduction
Public URL
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