Genome-Wide Comparative Analysis of Aspergillus fumigatus Strains: The Reference Genome as a Matter of Concern

Genes (Basel). 2018 Jul 19;9(7):363. doi: 10.3390/genes9070363.


Aspergillus fumigatus is a ubiquitous saprophytic mold and a major pathogen in immunocompromised patients. The effectiveness of triazole compounds, the A. fumigatus first line treatment, is being threatened by a rapid and global emergence of azole resistance. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has emerged as an invaluable tool for the analysis of genetic differences between A. fumigatus strains, their genetic background, and antifungal resistance development. Although WGS analyses can provide a valuable amount of novel information, there are some limitations that should be considered. These analyses, based on genome-wide comparative data and single nucleotide variant (SNV) calling, are dependent on the quality of sequencing, assembling, the variant calling criteria, as well as on the suitable selection of the reference genome, which must be genetically close to the genomes included in the analysis. In this study, 28 A. fumigatus genomes sequenced in-house and 73 available in public data bases have been analyzed. All genomes were distributed in four clusters and showed a variable number of SNVs depending on the genome used as reference (Af293 or A1163). Each reference genome belonged to a different cluster. The results highlighted the importance of choosing the most suitable A. fumigatus reference genome to avoid misleading conclusions.

Keywords: Aspergillus fumigatus; azole resistance; cyp51A; reference genomes; whole genome sequencing.