Evolution and Diversification of RNA Silencing Proteins in Fungi
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Comprehensive phylogenetic analyses of fungal Argonaute, Dicer, and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase-like proteins have been performed to gain insights into the diversification of RNA silencing pathways during the evolution of fungi. A wide range of fungi including ascomycetes, basidiomycetyes, and zygomycetes possesses multiple RNA silencing components in the genome, whereas a portion of ascomycete and basidiomycete fungi apparently lacks the whole or most of the components. The number of paralogous silencing proteins in the genome differs considerably among fungal species, suggesting that RNA silencing pathways have diversified significantly during evolution in parallel with developing the complexity of life cycle or in response to environmental conditions. Interestingly, orthologous silencing proteins from different fungal clades are often clustered more closely than paralogous proteins in a fungus, indicating that duplication events occurred before speciation events. Therefore, the origin of multiple RNA silencing pathways seems to be very ancient, likely having occurred prior to the divergence of the major fungal lineages.