Independent subtilases expansions in fungi associated with animals

Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Dec;28(12):3395-404. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msr176. Epub 2011 Jul 4.


Many socially important fungi encode an elevated number of subtilisin-like serine proteases, which have been shown to be involved in fungal mutualisms with grasses and in parasitism of insects, nematodes, plants, other fungi, and mammalian skin. These proteins have endopeptidase activities and constitute a significant part of fungal secretomes. Here, we use comparative genomics to investigate the relationship between the quality and quantity of serine proteases and the ability of fungi to cause disease in invertebrate and vertebrate animals. Our screen of previously unexamined fungi allowed us to annotate and identify nearly 1000 subtilisin-containing proteins and to describe six new categories of serine proteases. Architectures of predicted proteases reveal novel combinations of subtilisin domains with other, co-occurring domains. Phylogenetic analysis of the most common clade of fungal proteases, proteinase K, showed that gene family size changed independently in fungi, pathogenic to invertebrates (Hypocreales) and vertebrates (Onygenales). Interestingly, simultaneous expansions in the S8 and S53 families of subtilases in a single fungal species are rare. Our analysis finds that closely related systemic human pathogens may not show the same gene family expansions, and that related pathogens and nonpathogens may show the same type of gene family expansion. Therefore, the number of proteases does not appear to relate to pathogenicity. Instead, we hypothesize that the number of fungal serine proteases in a species is related to the use of the animal as a food source, whether it is dead or alive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fungi / enzymology*
  • Fungi / genetics*
  • Fungi / pathogenicity
  • Humans
  • Onygenales / enzymology
  • Onygenales / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Serine Proteases / chemistry*
  • Serine Proteases / genetics*
  • Serine Proteases / metabolism*
  • Subtilisins / chemistry*
  • Subtilisins / genetics*
  • Subtilisins / metabolism


  • Serine Proteases
  • Subtilisins