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Gut Fungi Possess a Conserved Toxin Immunity Gene of Bacterial Origin

By Syed M Rizvi, Chengxin Zhang, Peter L. Freddolino, Yang Zhang

Posted 15 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.15.341461

Prokaryotes and some unicellular eukaryotes routinely overcome evolutionary pressures with the help of horizontally acquired genes. In contrast, it is unusual for multicellular eukaryotes to adapt through horizontal gene transfer (HGT). Recent studies identified several cases of adaptive acquisition in the gut-dwelling multicellular fungal phylum Neocallimastigomycota. Here, we add to these cases the acquisition of a putative bacterial toxin immunity gene, PoNi, by an ancient common ancestor of four extant Neocallimastigomycota genera through HGT from an extracellular Ruminococcus bacterium. The PoNi homologs in these fungal genera share extraordinarily high (>70%) amino acid sequence identity with their bacterial donor xenolog, providing definitive evidence of HGT as opposed to lineage-specific gene retention. Furthermore, PoNi genes are nested on native sections of chromosomal DNA in multiple fungal genomes and are also found in polyadenylated fungal transcriptomes, confirming that these genes are authentic fungal genomic regions rather than sequencing artifacts from bacterial contamination. The HGT event, which is estimated to have occurred at least 66 (±10) million years ago in the gut of a Cretaceous mammal, gave the fungi a putative toxin immunity protein (PoNi) which likely helps them survive toxin-mediated attacks by bacterial competitors in the mammalian gut microbiome. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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