Gene genealogies, cryptic species, and molecular evolution in the human pathogen Coccidioides immitis and relatives (Ascomycota, Onygenales)

Mol Biol Evol. 2001 Jul;18(7):1246-58. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a003910.


Previous genealogical analyses of population structure in Coccidioides immitis revealed the presence of two cryptic and sexual species in this pathogenic fungus but did not clarify their origin and relationships with respect to other taxa. By combining the C. immitis data with those of two of its closest relatives, the free-living saprophytes Auxarthron zuffianum and Uncinocarpus reesii, we show that the C. immitis species complex is monophyletic, indicating a single origin of pathogenicity. Cryptic species also were found in both A. zuffianum and U. reesii, indicating that they can be found in both pathogenic and free-living fungi. Our study, together with a few others, indicates that the current list of known fungal species might be augmented by a factor of at least two. However, at least in the C. immitis, A. zuffianum, and U. reesii complexes, cryptic species represent subdivisions at the tips of deep monophyletic clades and thus well within the existing framework of generic classification. An analysis of silent and expressed divergence and polymorphism values between and within the taxa identified by genealogical concordance did not reveal faster evolution in C. immitis as a consequence of adaptation to the pathogenic habit, nor did it show positive Darwinian evolution in a region of a dioxygenase gene (tcrP gene coding for 4-HPPD) known to cause antigenic responses in humans. Instead, the data suggested relative stasis, indicative of purifying selection against mostly deleterious mutations. Two introns in the same gene fragment were considerably more divergent than exons and were unalignable between species complexes but had very low polymorphism within taxa.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate Dioxygenase / genetics
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Base Sequence
  • Chitin Synthase / genetics
  • Coccidioides / classification
  • Coccidioides / genetics*
  • Coccidioides / pathogenicity
  • Consensus Sequence
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genes, Fungal
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Onygenales / classification
  • Onygenales / enzymology
  • Onygenales / genetics*
  • Orotidine-5'-Phosphate Decarboxylase / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Fungal
  • 4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate Dioxygenase
  • Chitin Synthase
  • Orotidine-5'-Phosphate Decarboxylase

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AJ291968
  • GENBANK/AJ291969
  • GENBANK/AJ291970
  • GENBANK/AJ291971
  • GENBANK/AJ291972
  • GENBANK/AJ291973
  • GENBANK/AJ291974
  • GENBANK/AJ291975
  • GENBANK/AJ291976
  • GENBANK/AJ291977
  • GENBANK/AJ291978
  • GENBANK/AJ291979
  • GENBANK/AJ292088
  • GENBANK/AJ292089
  • GENBANK/AJ292090
  • GENBANK/AJ292091
  • GENBANK/AJ292092
  • GENBANK/AJ292093
  • GENBANK/AJ292094
  • GENBANK/AJ292095
  • GENBANK/AJ292096
  • GENBANK/AJ292097
  • GENBANK/AJ292098
  • GENBANK/AJ292100
  • GENBANK/AJ292101
  • GENBANK/AJ292102
  • GENBANK/AJ292103
  • GENBANK/AJ292104
  • GENBANK/AJ292105
  • GENBANK/AJ292106
  • GENBANK/AJ292107
  • GENBANK/AJ292108
  • GENBANK/AJ292109
  • GENBANK/AJ292110
  • GENBANK/AJ292111
  • GENBANK/AJ292112
  • GENBANK/AJ292113
  • GENBANK/AJ292114