The mitochondrial genomes of the human pathogens Coccidioides immitis and C. posadasii

G3 (Bethesda). 2021 Apr 19;11(7):jkab132. doi: 10.1093/g3journal/jkab132. Online ahead of print.


Fungal mitochondrial genomes encode genes involved in crucial cellular processes, such as oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondrial translation, and the molecule has been used as a molecular marker for population genetics studies. Coccidioides immitis and C. posadasii are endemic fungal pathogens that cause coccidioidomycosis in arid regions across both American continents. To date, approximately 150 Coccidioides isolates have been sequenced to infer patterns of variation of nuclear genomes. However, less attention has been given to the mitochondrial genomes of Coccidioides. In this report, we describe the assembly and annotation of mitochondrial reference genomes for two representative strains of C. posadasii and C. immitis, as well as assess population variation among 77 selected genomes. The sizes of the circular-mapping molecules are 68.2 Kb in C. immitis and 75.1 Kb in C. posadasii. We identify fourteen mitochondrial protein-coding genes common to most fungal mitochondria, which are largely syntenic across different populations and species of Coccidioides. Both Coccidioides species are characterized by a large number of group I and II introns, harboring twice the number of elements as compared to closely related Onygenales. The introns contain complete or truncated ORFs with high similarity to homing endonucleases of the LAGLIDADG and GIY-YIG families. Phylogenetic comparisons of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes show extensive phylogenetic discordance suggesting that the evolution of the two types of genetic material is not identical. This work represents the first assessment of mitochondrial genomes among isolates of both species of Coccidioides, and provides a foundation for future functional work.

Keywords: Coccidioides; Onygenales; Valley fever; coccidioidomycosis; fungal pathogen; group I and II introns; mitochondrial genomes; phylogenetics.