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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Identification and characterization of genes found in Coccidioides spp. but not nonpathogenic Onygenales

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Coccidioides spp. are dimorphic, pathogenic fungi that can cause severe human and animal disease. Like the other primary fungal pathogens, infections of animals results in a morphologic transformation to a tissue phase, which in this case is known as a spherule. The sequencing and annotation of Coccidioides spp. and the genomes of several nonpathogenic Onygenales species allows comparisons that might provide clues about the Coccidioides spp. genes that might be involved in pathogenesis. This analysis is a gene by gene orthology comparison. Although there were few differences in the size of genes families in the Coccidioides spp.-specific group compared to the genes shared by Coccidioides spp. and nonpathogenic Onygenales, there were a number of differences in the characterization of the two types of genes. Many more Coccidioides spp.-specific genes are up-regulated expression in spherules. Coccidioides spp.-specific genes more often lacked functional annotation, were more often classified as orphan genes and had SNPs with stop codons or higher non-synonymous/ synonymous ratios. Review of individual genes in the Coccidioides spp.-specific group identified two genes in the Velvet family, a histidine kinase, two thioredoxin genes, a calmodulin gene and ureidoglycolate hydrolase. Velvet genes have been found to be important for mycelium differentiation to yeast in Histoplasma capsulatum. Hopefully, identification of these genes will be useful for pursuing potential Coccidioides spp. virulence genes in the future.

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