BRC researchers have uncovered the 700-million-year-old history of fungi

Jun 30, 2023 | News

Important new insights into the early evolution of fungi have been published by Zsolt Merényi, László Nagy and their colleagues. The study, published on 22 June in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, revealed the genetic milestones of fungal evolution by comparing 123 complete fungal genomes.

Based on the genes found in the genomes of species living today, it is possible to infer the gene content of the genomes of extinct ancestors hundreds of millions of years ago and thus reconstruct the changes that the ancestors of fungi underwent at the beginning of the evolution of this diverse group of organisms. Using this approach, also known as molecular paleontology, the researchers found that, contrary to expectations, the genomes of early fungal ancestors contained many gene families specifically characteristic of unicellular eukaryotes, some of which are still present in certain descendants today. This result challenges the taxonomic definition of the kingdom of fungi.

The work is part of the 1000 Fungal Genomes Project, a project involving hundreds of researchers worldwide. Its aim is to sequence the entire genomes of 2 species from every known fungal family. In this paper, only the part focusing on the early events of the more than 1,500 genomes sequenced as part of the project has been used. The manuscripts presenting the full data series are currently awaiting publication in the workshops of the participating research groups.

The work just published clarifies many big questions about the evolution of fungi and opens the way to understanding evolutionary events spanning hundreds of millions of years.

Congratulations to the authors for the outstanding publication!