We studied the mode of reproduction and its evolution in the fungal subgenus Penicillium Biverticillium using phylogenetic and experimental approaches. We sequenced mating type (MAT) genes and nuclear DNA fragments in sexual and putatively asexual species. Examination of the concordance between individual trees supported the recognition of the morphological species. MAT genes were detected in two putatively asexual species and were found to evolve mostly under purifying selection, although high substitution rates were detected at some sites in some clades. The first steps of sexual reproduction could be induced under controlled conditions in one of the two species, although no mature cleistothecia were produced. Altogether, these findings suggest that the asexual Penicillium species may have lost sex only very recently and/or that the MAT genes are involved in other functions. An ancestral state reconstruction analysis indicated several events of putative sex loss in the genus. Alternatively, it is possible that the supposedly asexual Penicillium species may have retained a cryptic sexual stage.
Copyright 2010. Published by Elsevier Inc.