Variability in the Insect and Plant Adhesins, Mad1 and Mad2, within the Fungal Genus Metarhizium Suggest Plant Adaptation as an Evolutionary Force
Bidochka, Michael J.
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Several species of the insect pathogenic fungus Metarhizium are associated with certain plant types and genome analyses suggested a bifunctional lifestyle; as an insect pathogen and as a plant symbiont. Here we wanted to explore whether there was more variation in genes devoted to plant association (Mad2) or to insect association (Mad1) overall in the genus Metarhizium. Greater divergence within the genus Metarhizium in one of these genes may provide evidence for whether host insect or plant is a driving force in adaptation and evolution in the genus Metarhizium. We compared differences in variation in the insect adhesin gene, Mad1, which enables attachment to insect cuticle, and the plant adhesin gene, Mad2, which enables attachment to plants. Overall variation for the Mad1 promoter region (7.1%), Mad1 open reading frame (6.7%), and Mad2 open reading frame (7.4%) were similar, while it was higher in the Mad2 promoter region (9.9%). Analysis of the transcriptional elements within the Mad2 promoter region revealed variable STRE, PDS, degenerative TATA box, and TATA box-like regions, while this level of variation was not found for Mad1. Sequences were also phylogenetically compared to EF-1a, which is used for species identification, in 14 isolates representing 7 different species in the genus Metarhizium. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that the Mad2 phylogeny is more congruent with 59 EF-1a than Mad1. This would suggest that Mad2 has diverged among Metarhizium lineages, contributing to clade- and species-specific variation, while it appears that Mad1 has been largely conserved. While other abiotic and biotic factors cannot be excluded in contributing to divergence, these results suggest that plant relationships, rather than insect host, have been a major driving factor in the divergence of the genus Metarhizium.