Ploidy dynamics and evolvability in fungi

Noa Blutraich Wertheimer, Neil Stone, Judith Berman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Rapid responses to acute stresses are essential for stress survival and are critical to the ability of fungal pathogens to adapt to new environments or hosts. The rapid emergence of drug resistance is used as a model for how fungi adapt and survive stress conditions that inhibit the growth of progenitor cells. Aneuploidy and loss of heterozygosity (LOH), which are large-scale genome shifts involving whole chromosomes or chromosome arms, occur at higher frequency than point mutations and have the potential to mediate stress survival. Furthermore, the stress of exposure to an antifungal drug can induce elevated levels of LOH and can promote the formation of aneuploids. This occurs via mitotic defects that first produce tetraploid progeny with extra spindles, followed by chromosome mis-segregation. Thus, drug exposure induces elevated levels of aneuploidy, which can alter the copy number of genes that improve survival in a given stress or drug. Selection then acts to increase the proportion of adaptive aneuploids in the population. Because aneuploidy is a common property of many pathogenic fungi, including those posing emerging threats to plants, animals and humans, we propose that aneuploid formation and LOH often accompanying it contribute to the rapid generation of diversity that can facilitate the emergence of fungal pathogens to new environmental niches and/or new hosts, as well as promote antifungal drug resistance that makes emerging fungal infections ever more difficult to contain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150461
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1709
StatePublished - 5 Dec 2016


  • Adaptation
  • Aneuploidy
  • Drug resistance
  • Loss of heterozygosity
  • Trimeras


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