The Candida parapsilosis species complex comprises a group of emerging human pathogens of varying virulence. This complex was recently subdivided into three different species: C. parapsilosis sensu stricto, C. metapsilosis, and C. orthopsilosis. Within the latter, at least two clearly distinct subspecies seem to be present among clinical isolates (Type 1 and Type 2). To gain insight into the genomic differences between these subspecies, we undertook the sequencing of a clinical isolate classified as Type 1 and compared it with the available sequence of a Type 2 clinical strain. Unexpectedly, the analysis of the newly sequenced strain revealed a highly heterozygous genome, which we show to be the consequence of a hybridization event between both identified subspecies. This implicitly suggests that C. orthopsilosis is able to mate, a so-far unanswered question. The resulting hybrid shows a chimeric genome that maintains a similar gene dosage from both parental lineages and displays ongoing loss of heterozygosity. Several of the differences found between the gene content in both strains relate to virulent-related families, with the hybrid strain presenting a higher copy number of genes coding for efflux pumps or secreted lipases. Remarkably, two clinical strains isolated from distant geographical locations (Texas and Singapore) are descendants of the same hybrid line, raising the intriguing possibility of a relationship between the hybridization event and the global spread of a virulent clone.
Keywords: Candida orthopsilosis; fungi; genome sequencing; hybridization; pathogens.