Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny molecules protect fungi from the dangers of sex

Date:
November 14, 2010
Source:
Duke University Medical Center
Summary:
Pathogenic fungi have been found to protect themselves against unwanted genetic mutations during sexual reproduction, according to researchers. A gene-silencing pathway protects the fungal genome from mutations imposed by a partner during mating.

Pathogenic fungi have been found to protect themselves against unwanted genetic mutations during sexual reproduction, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Center. A gene-silencing pathway protects the fungal genome from mutations imposed by a partner during mating.

This pathway was discovered in Cryptococcus neoformans, a fungus that commonly infects humans, causing over one million cases of lung and brain infection each year, and more than 600,000 deaths. A related species, Cryptococcus gattii, is causing an expanding outbreak in the Pacific Northwest that is of considerable public health impact and concern.

"This discovery of how the genome is protected during sex might be leveraged as an Achilles' heel in the battle against C. neoformans, which frequently causes life-threatening illness in people," said senior author Joseph Heitman, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. "This protective silencing effect also operates in some animals, and our studies demonstrate that the pathway operates to defend the genome during sexual reproduction."

Sexual reproduction in fungi produces airborne spores that are readily inhaled into the lungs and thought to be the source of human infections. Thus, agents that block fungal sex might stop the risk of infection at the source.

This work was published in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Genes & Development.

C. neoformans uses a novel sex-induced RNAi (RNA interference) genome defense system that protects by effectively "silencing" the DNA, so that it is not vulnerable to repeated genes and transposable elements that could cause mutations.

The silencing system protects the genome from changes that might be imposed by transposable elements of DNA, called "jumping genes," that are also more active during the sexual cycle, said Xuying Wang, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate who works in the Heitman lab.

Through deep sequencing of the small RNAi pieces which mediate the silencing in C. neoformans, the team also identified abundant small RNAs which map to repetitive transposable elements that could cause mutations if not silenced.

These small RNAs were absent in mutant strains (rdp1) that were studied. One group of transposable elements was greatly expressed during mating of rdp1 mutant strains and these fungi showed an increased transposition and mutation rate in the next generation, leading the researchers to conclude that the RNAi pathway squelches transposon activity during the sexual cycle.

Other authors included co-lead author Yen-Ping Hsueh, now of the California Institute of Technology, and formerly of Duke Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, as well as Wenjun Li, Anna Floyd, and Rebecca Skalsky of Duke Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. The work is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University Medical Center. "Tiny molecules protect fungi from the dangers of sex." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101114190821.htm>.
Duke University Medical Center. (2010, November 14). Tiny molecules protect fungi from the dangers of sex. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101114190821.htm
Duke University Medical Center. "Tiny molecules protect fungi from the dangers of sex." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101114190821.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins