A multigene phylogeny of Olpidium and its implications for early fungal evolution
From a common ancestor with animals, the earliest fungi inherited flagellated zoospores for dispersal in water. Terrestrial fungi lost all flagellated stages and reproduce instead with nonmotile spores. Olpidium virulentus (= Olpidium brassicae), a unicellular fungus parasitizing vascular plant root cells, seemed anomalous. Although Olpidium produces zoospores, in previous phylogenetic studies it appeared nested among the terrestrial fungi. Its position was based mainly on ribosomal gene sequences and was not strongly supported. Our goal in this study was to use amino acid sequences from four genes to reconstruct the branching order of the early-diverging fungi with particular emphasis on the position of Olpidium.