Xylona heveae has only been isolated as an endophyte of rubber trees. In an effort to understand the genetic basis of endophytism, we compared the genome contents of X. heveae and 36 other Ascomycota with diverse lifestyles and nutritional modes. We focused on genes that are known to be important in the host-fungus interaction interface and that presumably have a role in determining the lifestyle of a fungus. We used phylogenomic data to infer the higher-level phylogenetic position of the Xylonomycetes, and mined ITS sequences to explore its taxonomic and ecological diversity. The X. heveae genome contains a low number of enzymes needed for plant cell wall degradation, suggesting that Xylona is a highly adapted specialist and likely dependent on its host for survival. The reduced repertoire of carbohydrate active enzymes could reflect an adaptation to intercellulary growth and to the avoidance of the host's immune system, suggesting that Xylona has a strictly endophytic lifestyle. Phylogenomic data resolved the position of Xylonomycetes as sister to Lecanoromycetes and Eurotiomycetes and placed the beetle-endosymbiont Symbiotaphrina as a member of this class. ITS data revealed that Trinosporium is also part of the Xylonomycetes, extending the taxonomic and ecological diversity of this group.
Keywords: CAZymes; Glycoside hydrolases; Horizontally transmitted endophytes; Sapwood endophytes; Symbiotaphrina; Trinosporium.
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