Evidence from beta-tubulin phylogeny that microsporidia evolved from within the fungi

Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Jan;17(1):23-31. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a026235.


Microsporidia are obligate intracellular parasites that were thought to be an ancient eukaryotic lineage based on molecular phylogenies using ribosomal RNA and translation elongation factors. However, this ancient origin of microsporidia has been contested recently, as several other molecular phylogenies suggest that microsporidia are closely related to fungi. Most of the protein trees that place microsporidia with fungi are not well sampled, however, and it is impossible to resolve whether microsporidia evolved from a fungus or from a protistan relative of fungi. We have sequenced beta-tubulins from 3 microsporidia, 4 chytrid fungi, and 12 zygomycete fungi, expanding the representation of beta-tubulin to include all four fungal divisions and a wide diversity of microsporidia. In phylogenetic trees including these new sequences, the overall topology of the fungal beta-tubulins generally matched the expected relationships among the four fungal divisions, although the zygomycetes were polyphyletic in some analyses. The microsporidia consistently fell within this fungal diversification, and not as a sister group to fungi. Overall, beta-tubulin phylogeny suggests that microsporidia evolved from a fungus sometime after the divergence of chytrids. We also found that chytrid alpha- and beta-tubulins are much less divergent than are tubulins from other fungi or microsporidia. In trees in which the only fungal representatives were the chytrids, microsporidia still branched with fungi (i.e., with chytrids), suggesting that the affiliation between microsporidian and fungal tubulins is not an artifact of long-branch attraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Fungi
  • Phylogeny
  • Tubulin / chemistry
  • Tubulin / genetics*


  • Tubulin