Phylogeography of the fungal pathogen Histoplasma capsulatum

Mol Ecol. 2003 Dec;12(12):3383-401. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-294x.2003.01995.x.


Until recently, Histoplasma capsulatum was believed to harbour three varieties, var. capsulatum (chiefly a New World human pathogen), var. duboisii (an African human pathogen) and var. farciminosum (an Old World horse pathogen), which varied in clinical manifestations and geographical distribution. We analysed the phylogenetic relationships of 137 individuals representing the three varieties from six continents using DNA sequence variation in four independent protein-coding genes. At least eight clades were idengified: (i) North American class 1 clade; (ii) North American class 2 clade; (iii) Latin American group A clade; (iv) Latin American group B clade; (v) Australian clade; (vi) Netherlands (Indonesian?) clade; (vii) Eurasian clade and (viii) African clade. Seven of eight clades represented genetically isolated groups that may be recognized as phylogenetic species. The sole exception was the Eurasian clade which originated from within the Latin American group A clade. The phylogenetic relationships among the clades made a star phylogeny. Histoplasma capsulatum var. capsulatum individuals were found in all eight clades. The African clade included all of the H. capsulatum var. duboisii individuals as well as individuals of the other two varieties. The 13 individuals of var. farciminosum were distributed among three phylogenetic species. These findings suggest that the three varieties of Histoplasma are phylogenetically meaningless. Instead we have to recognize the existence of genetically distinct geographical populations or phylogenetic species. Combining DNA substitution rates of protein-coding genes with the phylogeny suggests that the radiation of Histoplasma started between 3 and 13 million years ago in Latin America.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Geography*
  • Histoplasma / classification*
  • Histoplasma / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity