A robust phylogenomic time tree for biotechnologically and medically important fungi in the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium

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The filamentous fungal family Aspergillaceae contains >1,000 known species, mostly in the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium. Several species are used in the food, biotechnology, and drug industries (e.g., Aspergillus oryzae and Penicillium camemberti), while others are dangerous human and plant pathogens (e.g., Aspergillus fumigatus and Penicillium digitatum). To infer a robust phylogeny and pinpoint poorly resolved branches and their likely underlying contributors, we used 81 genomes spanning the diversity of Aspergillus and Penicillium to construct a 1,668-gene data matrix. Phylogenies of the nucleotide and amino acid versions of this full data matrix as well as of several additional data matrices were generated using three different maximum likelihood schemes (i.e., gene-partitioned, unpartitioned, and coalescence) and using both site-homogenous and site-heterogeneous models (total of 64 species-level phylogenies). Examination of the topological agreement among these phylogenies and measures of internode certainty identified 11/78 (14.1%) bipartitions that were incongruent and pinpointed the likely underlying contributing factors, which included incomplete lineage sorting, hidden paralogy, hybridization or introgression, and reconstruction artifacts associated with poor taxon sampling. Relaxed molecular clock analyses suggest that Aspergillaceae likely originated in the lower Cretaceous and that the Aspergillus and Penicillium genera originated in the upper Cretaceous. Our results shed light on the ongoing debate on Aspergillus systematics and taxonomy and provide a robust evolutionary and temporal framework for comparative genomic analyses in Aspergillaceae. More broadly, our approach provides a general template for phylogenomic identification of resolved and contentious branches in densely genome-sequenced lineages across the tree of life.




Steenwyk, J. L., Shen, X. X., Lind, A. L., Goldman, G. H., & Rokas, A. (2019). A robust phylogenomic time tree for biotechnologically and medically important fungi in the genera Aspergillus and Penicillium. MBio, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00925-19

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