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MDPI, Journal of Fungi, 1(9), p. 110, 2023

DOI: 10.3390/jof9010110



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Unraveling the Secrets of a Double-Life Fungus by Genomics: Ophiocordyceps australis CCMB661 Displays Molecular Machinery for Both Parasitic and Endophytic Lifestyles

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Ophiocordyceps australis (Ascomycota, Hypocreales, Ophiocordycipitaceae) is a classic entomopathogenic fungus that parasitizes ants (Hymenoptera, Ponerinae, Ponerini). Nonetheless, according to our results, this fungal species also exhibits a complete set of genes coding for plant cell wall degrading Carbohydrate-Active enZymes (CAZymes), enabling a full endophytic stage and, consequently, its dual ability to both parasitize insects and live inside plant tissue. The main objective of our study was the sequencing and full characterization of the genome of the fungal strain of O. australis (CCMB661) and its predicted secretome. The assembled genome had a total length of 30.31 Mb, N50 of 92.624 bp, GC content of 46.36%, and 8,043 protein-coding genes, 175 of which encoded CAZymes. In addition, the primary genes encoding proteins and critical enzymes during the infection process and those responsible for the host–pathogen interaction have been identified, including proteases (Pr1, Pr4), aminopeptidases, chitinases (Cht2), adhesins, lectins, lipases, and behavioral manipulators, such as enterotoxins, Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases (PTPs), and Glycoside Hydrolases (GHs). Our findings indicate that the presence of genes coding for Mad2 and GHs in O. australis may facilitate the infection process in plants, suggesting interkingdom colonization. Furthermore, our study elucidated the pathogenicity mechanisms for this Ophiocordyceps species, which still is scarcely studied.