Conspecific allorecognition, the ability for an organism to discriminate its own cells from those of another individual of the same species, has been developed by many organisms. Allorecognition specificities are determined by highly polymorphic genes. The processes by which this extreme polymorphism is generated remain largely unknown. Fungi are able to form heterokaryons by fusion of somatic cells, and somatic non self-recognition is controlled by heterokaryon incompatibility loci (het loci). Herein, we have analyzed the evolutionary features of the het-d and het-e fungal allorecognition genes. In these het genes, allorecognition specificity is determined by a polymorphic WD-repeat domain. We found that het-d and het-e belong to a large gene family with 10 members that all share the WD-repeat domain and show that repeats of all members of the family undergo concerted evolution. It follows that repeat units are constantly exchanged both within and between members of the gene family. As a consequence, high mutation supply in the repeat domain is ensured due to the high total copy number of repeats. We then show that in each repeat four residues located at the protein/protein interaction surface of the WD-repeat domain are under positive diversifying selection. Diversification of het-d and het-e is thus ensured by high mutation supply, followed by reshuffling of the repeats and positive selection for favourable variants. We also propose that RIP, a fungal specific hypermutation process acting specifically on repeated sequences might further enhance mutation supply. The combination of these evolutionary mechanisms constitutes an original process for generating extensive polymorphism at loci that require rapid diversification. © 2007 Paoletti et al.
Paoletti, M., Saupe, S. J., & Clavé, C. (2007). Genesis of a fungal non-self recognition repertoire. PLoS ONE, 2(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000283