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Fungal social barriers: to fuse, or not to fuse, that is the question


Cell fusion takes place in all domains of life and contributes greatly to the formation of complex multicellular structures. In particular, many fungi, such as the filamentous Neurospora crassa, rely on conspecific somatic cell fusion to drive the unicellular-to-multicellular transition and formation of the interconnected mycelial syncytium. This can, however, lead to the transmission of infectious elements and deleterious genotypes that have a negative impact on the organismal fitness. Accumulating evidence obtained from natural populations suggests that N. crassa has evolved various self/non-self or allorecognition systems to avoid fusion between genetically non-identical spores or hyphae at all costs. Here we present an overview of the recent advances made in the field of fungal allorecognition, describe its genetic basis, and comment on its evolutionary meaning. These data pinpoint the multilayered complexity of the cooperative social behaviors undertaken by a model eukaryotic microbe.

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