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Genome-scale phylogenetic analyses confirm Olpidium as the closest living zoosporic fungus to the non-flagellated, terrestrial fungi.


The zoosporic obligate endoparasites, Olpidium, hold a pivotal position to the reconstruction of the flagellum loss in fungi, one of the key morphological transitions associated with the colonization of land by the early fungi. We generated genome and transcriptome data from non-axenic zoospores of Olpidium bornovanus and used a metagenome approach to extract phylogenetically informative fungal markers. Our phylogenetic reconstruction strongly supported Olpidium as the closest zoosporic relative of the non-flagellated terrestrial fungi. Super-alignment analyses resolved Olpidium as sister to the non-flagellated terrestrial fungi, whereas a super-tree approach recovered different placements of Olpidium, but without strong support. Further investigations detected little conflicting signal among the sampled markers but revealed a potential polytomy in early fungal evolution associated with the branching order among Olpidium, Zoopagomycota and Mucoromycota. The branches defining the evolutionary relationships of these lineages were characterized by short branch lengths and low phylogenetic content and received equivocal support for alternative phylogenetic hypotheses from individual markers. These nodes were marked by important morphological innovations, including the transition to hyphal growth and the loss of flagellum, which enabled early fungi to explore new niches and resulted in rapid and temporally concurrent Precambrian diversifications of the ancestors of several phyla of fungi.

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