Genome expansion and lineage-specific genetic innovations in the forest pathogenic fungi Armillaria

Nat Ecol Evol. 2017 Dec;1(12):1931-1941. doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0347-8. Epub 2017 Oct 30.


Armillaria species are both devastating forest pathogens and some of the largest terrestrial organisms on Earth. They forage for hosts and achieve immense colony sizes via rhizomorphs, root-like multicellular structures of clonal dispersal. Here, we sequenced and analysed the genomes of four Armillaria species and performed RNA sequencing and quantitative proteomic analysis on the invasive and reproductive developmental stages of A. ostoyae. Comparison with 22 related fungi revealed a significant genome expansion in Armillaria, affecting several pathogenicity-related genes, lignocellulose-degrading enzymes and lineage-specific genes expressed during rhizomorph development. Rhizomorphs express an evolutionarily young transcriptome that shares features with the transcriptomes of both fruiting bodies and vegetative mycelia. Several genes show concomitant upregulation in rhizomorphs and fruiting bodies and share cis-regulatory signatures in their promoters, providing genetic and regulatory insights into complex multicellularity in fungi. Our results suggest that the evolution of the unique dispersal and pathogenicity mechanisms of Armillaria might have drawn upon ancestral genetic toolkits for wood-decay, morphogenesis and complex multicellularity.

MeSH terms

  • Armillaria / genetics*
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics*
  • Genome, Fungal*
  • Proteomics
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcriptome


  • Fungal Proteins