Chapter 8: Sexual reproduction: the basis of diversity and taxonomy

Sexual reproduction is a nearly universal feature of eukaryotes and its core features are conserved throughout each group within the eukaryotic tree of life. This is taken to imply that sexual reproduction evolved once only and was present in the Eukaryote Last Common Ancestor (ELCA; see Fig. 2.11 and Moore, 2013 [pp. 174 et seq.]). Studies of the fungal kingdom have revealed novel and unusual patterns of sexual reproduction, which we will discuss in this Chapter.

Fundamentally, sexual reproduction is the fusion of gametes (the differentiated sex cells) or their nuclei to form a diploid that can undergo meiosis. The overall summary 'equation' is:

Plasmogamy → Karyogamy → Meiosis

For most fungi, plasmogamy occurs when hyphal fusion (anastomosis) occurs, and is controlled by the incompatibility systems; growth of the resultant heterokaryon as an independent mycelium prolongs plasmogamy, in some cases indefinitely.

In this Chapter we describe the process of sexual reproduction in fungi. This includes description of mating and mating type switching in budding yeast, mating type factors of Neurospora, and the mating type factors of Basidiomycota. We finish with some thoughts about the biology of mating type factors.

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Updated July, 2019