Neurospora tetrasperma is naturally heterokaryotic, with cells possessing haploid nuclei of both a and A mating types. As a result, isolates are self-fertile (pseudohomothallic). Occasional homokaryotic ascospores and conidia arise, however, and they produce strains that are self-sterile and must outcross to complete sexual reproduction. Invariably, laboratory crosses employing sibling a and A strains from the same parental heterokaryon restore the pseudohomothallic, heterokaryotic state. In contrast, outcrosses employing a and A strains from different wild isolates typically result in sexual dysfunction. Diverse sexual dysfunction types have been observed, ranging from complete sterility to reduced viability. We report that one type of dysfunction, characterized by spontaneous loss of the heterokaryotic state upon ascospore germination, can result from the interaction of incompatible alleles at heterokaryon incompatibility loci. Specifically, we demonstrate that homoallelism at the het-c locus in N. tetrasperma is required for heterokaryon stability. Heterokaryon incompatibility therefore provides an obstacle to outcrossing in this species, an observation with important implications for fungal life-cycle evolution.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.