Phylogenetic systematics of Syncephalis (Zoopagales, Zoopagomycotina), a genus of ubiquitous mycoparasites

Mycologia. 2017;109(2):333-349. doi: 10.1080/00275514.2017.1307005. Epub 2017 Mar 15.


We examined phylogenetic relationships among species of the mycoparasite genus Syncephalis using sequences from three nuclear ribsosomal DNA genes (18S, 5.8S, and 28S nuc rDNA) and a gene encoding the largest subunit of RNA polymerase II (RPB1). Our data set included 88 Syncephalis isolates comprising 23 named species and several unnamed taxa. We also revived a culturing technique using beef liver and cellophane to grow several Syncephalis isolates without their host fungi to obtain pure parasite DNA. Most isolates, however, were grown in co-cultures with their host fungi, so we designed Syncephalis-specific primers to obtain sequence data. Individual and combined data sets were analyzed by maximum likelihood (ML) and Bayesian methods. We recovered 20 well-supported lineages and 38 operational taxonomic units (OTUs). Most major clades contained isolates from distant localities on multiple continents. There were taxonomic and nomenclature issues within several clades, probably due to high phenotypic plasticity or species dimorphism. We also conducted an analysis of Syncephalis nuc rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequences for 31 phylogenetically diverse isolates, and we determined that most Syncephalis species have long ITS sequences relative to other fungi. Although commonly employed eukaryotic and fungal primers are compatible with diverse Syncephalis species, the ITS sequences of Syncepahlis are nonetheless rarely recovered in environmental molecular diversity surveys.

Keywords: ITS region; Piptocephalidaceae; molecular phylogenetics; mycoparasite.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Axenic Culture
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / genetics
  • Fungi / classification*
  • Fungi / cytology
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Genetic Variation
  • Host Specificity
  • Mycological Typing Techniques
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA Polymerase II / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Fungal
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer
  • RNA Polymerase II
  • RNA polymerase II largest subunit