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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Programmed Cell Death in Neurospora crassa Is Controlled by the Allorecognition Determinant rcd-1.

  • Author(s): Daskalov, Asen
  • Gladieux, Pierre
  • Heller, Jens
  • Glass, N Louise
  • et al.

Nonself recognition following cell fusion between genetically distinct individuals of the same species in filamentous fungi often results in a programmed cell death (PCD) reaction, where the heterokaryotic fusion cell is compartmentalized and rapidly killed. The allorecognition process plays a key role as a defense mechanism that restricts genome exploitation, resource plundering, and the spread of deleterious senescence plasmids and mycoviruses. Although a number of incompatibility systems have been described that function in mature hyphae, less is known about the PCD pathways in asexual spores, which represent the main infectious unit in various human and plant fungal pathogens. Here, we report the identification of regulator of cell death-1 (rcd-1), a novel allorecognition gene, controlling PCD in germinating asexual spores of Neurospora crassa; rcd-1 is one of the most polymorphic genes in the genomes of wild N. crassa isolates. The coexpression of two antagonistic rcd-1-1 and rcd-1-2 alleles was necessary and sufficient to trigger cell death in fused germlings and in hyphae. Based on analysis of wild populations of N. crassa and N. discreta, rcd-1 alleles appeared to be under balancing selection and associated with trans-species polymorphisms. We shed light on genomic rearrangements that could have led to the emergence of the incompatibility system in Neurospora and show that rcd-1 belongs to a much larger gene family in fungi. Overall, our work contributes toward a better understanding of allorecognition and PCD in an underexplored developmental stage of filamentous fungi.

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