Whole genome comparisons of ergot fungi reveals the divergence and evolution of species within the genus Claviceps are the result of varying mechanisms driving genome evolution and host range expansion
The genus Claviceps has been known for centuries as an economically important fungal genera for pharmacology and agricultural research. Only recently have researchers begun to unravel the evolutionary history of the genus, with origins in South America and classification of four distinct sections through ecological, morphological, and metabolic features (Claviceps sects. Citrinae, Paspalorum, Pusillae, and Claviceps). The first three sections are additionally characterized by narrow host range, while sect. Claviceps is considered evolutionarily more successful and adaptable as it has the largest host range and biogeographical distribution. However, the reasons for this success and adaptability remain unclear. Our study elucidates factors influencing adaptability by sequencing and annotating 50 Claviceps genomes, representing 21 species, for a comprehensive comparison of genome architecture and plasticity in relation to host range potential. Our results show the trajectory from specialized one-speed genomes (sects. Citrinae and Paspalorum) towards adaptive two-speed genomes (sects. Pusillae and Claviceps) through co-localization of transposable elements around predicted effectors and a putative loss of repeat-induced point mutation resulting in unconstrained tandem gene duplication coinciding with increased host range potential and speciation. Alterations of genomic architecture and plasticity can substantially influence and shape the evolutionary trajectory of fungal pathogens and their adaptability. Furthermore, our study provides a large increase in available genomic resources to propel future studies of Claviceps in pharmacology and agricultural research, as well as, research into deeper understanding of the evolution of adaptable plant pathogens. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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