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Open Access Unravelling species boundaries in the Aspergillus viridinutans complex (section Fumigati): opportunistic human and animal pathogens capable of interspecific hybridization

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Although Aspergillus fumigatus is the major agent of invasive aspergillosis, an increasing number of infections are caused by its cryptic species, especially A. lentulus and the A. viridinutans species complex (AVSC). Their identification is clinically relevant because of antifungal drug resistance and refractory infections. Species boundaries in the AVSC are unresolved since most species have uniform morphology and produce interspecific hybrids in vitro. Clinical and environmental strains from six continents (n=110) were characterized by DNA sequencing of four to six loci. Biological compatibilities were tested within and between major phylogenetic clades, and ascospore morphology was characterised. Species delimitation methods based on the multispecies coalescent model (MSC) supported recognition of ten species including one new species. Four species are confirmed opportunistic pathogens; A. udagawae followed by A. felis and A. pseudoviridinutans are known from opportunistic human infections, while A. felis followed by A. udagawae and A. wyomingensis are agents of feline sino-orbital aspergillosis. Recently described human-pathogenic species A. parafelis and A. pseudofelis are synonymized with A. felis and an epitype is designated for A. udagawae. Intraspecific mating assay showed that only a few of the heterothallic species can readily generate sexual morphs in vitro. Interspecific mating assays revealed that five different species combinations were biologically compatible. Hybrid ascospores had atypical surface ornamentation and significantly different dimensions compared to parental species. This suggests that species limits in the AVSC are maintained by both pre- and post-zygotic barriers and these species display a great potential for rapid adaptation and modulation of virulence. This study highlights that a sufficient number of strains representing genetic diversity within a species is essential for meaningful species boundaries delimitation in cryptic species complexes. MSC-based delimitation methods are robust and suitable tools for evaluation of boundaries between these species.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 18, 2018

This article was made available online on June 21, 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Unravelling species boundaries in the Aspergillus viridinutans complex (section Fumigati): opportunistic human and animal pathogens capable of interspecific hybridization".

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  • Persoonia aims to publish papers dealing with molecular phylogeny and evolution of fungi. A further aim is to promote fungal taxonomy by employing a polythetic approach to clarify the true phylogeny and relationships within the kingdom Fungi. The journal publishes high-quality papers elucidating known and novel fungal taxa at the DNA level, and also strives to present novel insights into evolutionary processes and relationships. Papers to be considered include research articles and reviews.

    Papers are published using a Fast Track system. This implies that the papers are immediately published online and freely available through the internet via this website. Volumes appear twice a year (June and December). From Volume 36 onwards (2016) hard copy volumes will only be made available through printing-on-demand. The issues can be ordered separately through the Publication Division of Naturalis Biodiversity Center; e-mail: [email protected]

    Persoonia is a journal published jointly by the Naturalis Biodiversity Center and the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute.
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