Saccharomycotina comprises a diverse group of yeasts that includes numerous species of industrial or clinical relevance. Opportunistic pathogens within this clade are often assigned to the genus Candida but belong to phylogenetically distant lineages that also comprise non-pathogenic species. This indicates that the ability to infect humans has evolved independently several times among Saccharomycotina. Although the mechanisms of infection of the main groups of Candida pathogens are starting to be unveiled, we still lack sufficient understanding of the evolutionary paths that led to a virulent phenotype in each of the pathogenic lineages. Deciphering what genomic changes underlie the evolutionary emergence of a virulence trait will not only aid the discovery of novel virulence mechanisms but it will also provide valuable information to understand how new pathogens emerge, and what clades may pose a future danger. Here we review recent comparative genomics efforts that have revealed possible evolutionary paths to pathogenesis in different lineages, focusing on the main three agents of candidiasis worldwide: Candida albicans, C. parapsilosis and C. glabrata We will discuss what genomic traits may facilitate the emergence of virulence, and focus on two different genome evolution mechanisms able to generate drastic phenotypic changes and which have been associated to the emergence of virulence: gene family expansion and interspecies hybridization.
Keywords: Candida; Saccharomycotina; evolution; genomics; pathogens.
© FEMS 2016.