Evolution of Perithecium Development
The production of ascospores is critical to the life cycle of many of the fungi in the Phylum Ascomycota, many of which are important pathogens of our agricultural crops that use these spores to spread disease. In the Class Sordariomycetes, ascospores are formed inside the fruiting body, called a perithecium. Examination of fruiting body morphology across a diversity of genera, we see that they have evolved striking differences, as shown above, many of which are likely niche-specific. Some genera, like Nectria, Neurospora, Podospora and Fusarium, forcibly fire their spores, whereas others have deciduous asci that are exuded from the perithecium (Magnaporthe), or have evanescent asci that dissolve before they fire and leave the spores to ooze out en masse, like Chaetomium. In collaboration with Dr. Jeffrey Townsend, Yale University, we are exploring the evolution of fruiting body development in fungi. How and why have the different forms evolved? Are there entirely new genes that explain the new phenotypes or have genes been shifted to different uses? Do the new morphologies allow the fungi to adapt to new niches?