Fungi in the genus Metarhizium are soil-borne plant-root endophytes and rhizosphere colonizers, but also potent insect pathogens with highly variable host ranges. These ascomycete fungi are predominantly asexually reproducing and ancestrally haploid, but two independent origins of persistent diploidy within the Coleoptera-infecting Metarhizium majus species complex are known and has been attributed to incomplete chromosomal segregation following meiosis during the sexual cycle. There is also evidence for infrequent sexual cycles in the locust-specific pathogenic fungus Metarhizium acridum (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae), which is an important entomopathogenic biocontrol agent used for the control of grasshoppers in agricultural systems as an alternative to chemical control. Here, we show that the genome of the M. acridum isolate ARSEF 324, which is formulated and commercially utilized is functionally diploid. We used single-molecule real-time sequencing technology to complete a high-quality assembly of ARSEF 324. K-mer frequencies, intragenomic collinearity between contigs and single nucleotide variant read depths across the genome revealed the first incidence of diploidy described within the species M. acridum. The haploid assembly of 44.7 Mb consisted of 20.8% repetitive elements, which is the highest proportion described of any Metarhizium species. The long-read diploid genome assembly sheds light on past research on this strain, such as unusual high UVB tolerance. The data presented here could fuel future investigation into the fitness landscape of fungi with infrequent sexual reproduction and aberrant ploidy levels, not least in the context of biocontrol agents.
Keywords: Metarhizium; ascomycete; entomopathogen; genome duplication; parasexual; ploidy.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.