Neurospora crassa produces two types of vegetative spores-relatively small numbers of uninucleate microconidia and very large numbers of multinucleate macroconidia (blastoconidia and arthroconidia). The microconidia can function either as spermatia (male gametes) or as asexual reproductive structures or both. In nature they probably function exclusively in fertilization of protoperithecia. The environmental conditions favoring their formation and the pattern of their development are quite distinct from those of macroconidia. Mutants of N. crassa have been isolated in which macroconidiation is selectively blocked without affecting microconidiation, showing that these two types of conidial differentiation involve distinct developmental pathways. Unlike microconidia of some related ascomycetes, those of Neurospora are capable of germination, providing viable uninucleate haploid cells which are desired in several types of investigations. A technique of selectively removing macroconidia from culture initiated on cellophane overlying agar medium allows pure microconidia to be obtained even from the wild-type strains of Neurospora. The conditional microcyclic strain, mcm, allows either macroconidia or microconidia to be obtained at will, depending on the conditions of culture. The new methods of obtaining pure microconidia from normal laboratory strains will make it quick and easy to purify heterokaryotic transformants following introduction of DNA into multinucleate protoplasts. Moreover, these methods allow the detection of genetic variability that remains hidden within an individual fungus and the estimation of the frequency of nuclear types in laboratory-constructed heterokaryons. The discovery, function, and development of microconidia are described and their research applications are discussed in this review.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.