Sexual structures in Aspergillus: morphology, importance and genomics

Med Mycol. 2009;47 Suppl 1:S21-6. doi: 10.1080/13693780802139859. Epub 2008 Jun 4.


The genus Aspergillus comprises a few hundred species sharing a common asexual spore forming structure, the aspergillum. Approximately one-third of these species also produce a sexual stage, all but five of which are known to be homothallic. Sexual stages associated with Aspergillus fall into approximately ten different genera, reflecting a tremendous degree of phylogenetic and biological diversity. Sexual stages in Aspergillus are plectomycetous, typical for the order in which it resides, the Eurotiales. Theoretically, a homothallic Aspergillus species can produce both asexual conidia and sexual ascospores in both clonal and recombinant fashion, although the actual significance of these potential modes of reproduction is unclear. Aspergillus species with known sexual stages tend to be minor players in infections of humans, perhaps because of their tendency to produce fewer asexual spores compared to their non-teleomorphic congeners. The discovery of population genetic and genomic evidence for sex in species with no known sexual stage indicates that no assumptions can be made about the clonal versus recombinant life histories of a species based on its known mitotic and/or meiotic reproductive modes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus / cytology*
  • Aspergillus / genetics
  • Aspergillus / physiology*
  • Meiosis*
  • Mitosis*
  • Spores, Fungal / cytology*
  • Spores, Fungal / physiology*