Background: Dermatophytes are fungi that cause superficial infections of the skin, hair, and nails. They are the most common agents of fungal infections worldwide. Dermatophytic fungi constitute three genera, Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Microsporum, and the evolutionary relationships between these genera are epidemiologically important. Mitochondria are considered to be of monophyletic origin and mitochondrial sequences offer many advantages for phylogenetic studies. However, only one complete dermatophyte mitochondrial genome (E. floccosum) has previously been determined.
Results: The complete mitochondrial DNA sequences of five dermatophyte species, T. rubrum (26,985 bp), T. mentagrophytes (24,297 bp), T. ajelloi (28,530 bp), M. canis (23,943 bp) and M. nanum (24,105 bp) were determined. These were compared to the E. floccosum sequence. Mitochondrial genomes of all 6 species were found to harbor the same set of genes arranged identical order indicating that these dermatophytes are closely related. Genome size differences were largely due to variable lengths of non-coding intergenic regions and the presence/absence of introns. Phylogenetic analyses based on complete mitochondrial genomes reveals that the divergence of the dermatophyte clade was later than of other groups of pathogenic fungi.
Conclusion: This is the first systematic comparative genomic study on dermatophytes, a highly conserved and recently-diverged lineage of ascomycota fungi. The data reported here provide a basis for further exploration of interrelationships between dermatophytes and will contribute to the study of mitochondrial evolution in higher fungi.