The evolutionary imprint of domestication on genome variation and function of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus oryzae

Curr Biol. 2012 Aug 7;22(15):1403-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.05.033. Epub 2012 Jul 12.


The domestication of animals, plants, and microbes fundamentally transformed the lifestyle and demography of the human species [1]. Although the genetic and functional underpinnings of animal and plant domestication are well understood, little is known about microbe domestication [2-6]. Here, we systematically examined genome-wide sequence and functional variation between the domesticated fungus Aspergillus oryzae, whose saccharification abilities humans have harnessed for thousands of years to produce sake, soy sauce, and miso from starch-rich grains, and its wild relative A. flavus, a potentially toxigenic plant and animal pathogen [7]. We discovered dramatic changes in the sequence variation and abundance profiles of genes and wholesale primary and secondary metabolic pathways between domesticated and wild relative isolates during growth on rice. Our data suggest that, through selection by humans, an atoxigenic lineage of A. flavus gradually evolved into a "cell factory" for enzymes and metabolites involved in the saccharification process. These results suggest that whereas animal and plant domestication was largely driven by Neolithic "genetic tinkering" of developmental pathways, microbe domestication was driven by extensive remodeling of metabolism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillus flavus / genetics*
  • Aspergillus flavus / metabolism
  • Aspergillus oryzae / genetics*
  • Aspergillus oryzae / metabolism
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Genome, Fungal*
  • Humans
  • Oryza / microbiology