, Volume 249, Issue 1, pp 3-19

The evolutionary phylogeny of the oomycete “fungi”

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Abstract

Molecular sequencing has helped resolve the phylogenetic relationships amongst the diverse groups of algal, fungal-like and protist organisms that constitute the Chromalveolate “superkingdom” clade. It is thought that the whole clade evolved from a photosynthetic ancestor and that there have been at least three independent plastid losses during their evolutionary history. The fungal-like oomycetes and hyphochytrids, together with the marine flagellates Pirsonia and Developayella, form part of the clade defined by Cavalier-Smith and Chao (2006) as the phylum “Pseudofungi”, which is a sister to the photosynthetic chromistan algae (phylum Ochrophyta). Within the oomycetes, a number of predominantly marine holocarpic genera appear to diverge before the main “saprolegnian” and “peronosporalean” lines, into which all oomycetes had been traditionally placed. It is now clear that oomycetes have their evolutionary roots in the sea. The earliest diverging oomycete genera so far documented, Eurychasma and Haptoglossa, are both obligate parasites that show a high degree of complexity and sophistication in their host parasite interactions and infection structures. Key morphological and cytological features of the oomycetes will be reviewed in the context of our revised understanding of their likely phylogeny. Recent genomic studies have revealed a number of intriguing similarities in host–pathogen interactions between the oomycetes with their distant apicocomplexan cousins. Therefore, the earlier view that oomycetes evolved from the largely saprotrophic “saprolegnian line” is not supported and current evidence shows these organisms evolved from simple holocarpic marine parasites. Both the hyphal-like pattern of growth and the acquisition of oogamous sexual reproduction probably developed largely after the migration of these organisms from the sea to land.

Handling Editor: David Robinson