Ecological genomics of adaptation and speciation in fungi

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014:781:49-72. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7347-9_4.


Fungi play a central role in both ecosystems and human societies. This is in part because they have adopted a large diversity of life history traits to conquer a wide variety of ecological niches. Here, I review recent fungal genomics studies that explored the molecular origins and the adaptive significance of this diversity. First, macro-ecological genomics studies revealed that fungal genomes were highly remodelled during their evolution. This remodelling, in terms of genome organization and size, occurred through the proliferation of non-coding elements, gene compaction, gene loss and the expansion of large families of adaptive genes. These features vary greatly among fungal clades, and are correlated with different life history traits such as multicellularity, pathogenicity, symbiosis, and sexual reproduction. Second, micro-ecological genomics studies, based on population genomics, experimental evolution and quantitative trait loci approaches, have allowed a deeper exploration of early evolutionary steps of the above adaptations. Fungi, and especially budding yeasts, were used intensively to characterize early mutations and chromosomal rearrangements that underlie the acquisition of new adaptive traits allowing them to conquer new ecological niches and potentially leading to speciation. By uncovering the ecological factors and genomic modifications that underline adaptation, these studies showed that Fungi are powerful models for ecological genomics (eco-genomics), and that this approach, so far mainly developed in a few model species, should be expanded to the whole kingdom.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Fungi / physiology*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genome, Fungal / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Metagenomics*
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / physiology