Isolation of the MAT1-1 mating type idiomorph and evidence for selfing in the Chinese medicinal fungus Ophiocordyceps sinensis

Kathryn E. Bushley, Yi Li, Wen Jing Wang, Xiao Liang Wang, Lei Jiao, Joseph W. Spatafora, Yi Jian Yao

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28 Scopus citations


Ophiocordyceps sinensis is one of the most valued medicinal fungi in China. Research on the mating system and sexual development is vitally important to this endangered species. Previous efforts devoted to investigate the mating type (MAT) locus of O. sinensis, however, resulted in an incomplete understanding. In this study, the MAT1-1 locus of O. sinensis was investigated. The conserved α-box and HMG-box regions of the MAT1-1-1 and MAT1-1-3 genes, respectively, and a conserved region of the DNA lyase gene were successfully amplified using degenerate PCR. A combination of TAIL-PCR and long-range PCR were used to connect these genes and obtain the sequence of the MAT1-1 locus. Screening of 22 single spore isolates by PCR demonstrated that both the MAT1-1-1 and MAT1-2-1 genes cooccurred within the same isolate. Additionally, both MAT1-1-1 and MAT1-2-1 are expressed in vegetative mycelia, providing evidence that O. sinensis is likely capable of selfing. DAPI (4,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) staining of ascospores and hyphae showed that a majority of hyphal compartments are binucleate, suggesting that O. sinensis may be pseudohomothallic. Analyses of sequence diversity showed lower levels of genetic diversity in MAT1-1-1 compared to MAT1-2-1, indicating the possibility that different selective pressures act on the two MAT idiomorphs. The MAT1-1-1 sequences of O. sinensis and Tolypocladium inflatum cluster as a monophyletic group consistent with phylogenetic classification of Ophiocordycipitaceae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-610
Number of pages12
JournalFungal Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the National Science Foundation (USA) grant OISE-1019044 , the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( 31170017 ), the Chinese Academy of Sciences ( KSCX2-YW-G-076 ) and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China ( 2012FY111600 ). KEB would like to thank all members of the Yao laboratory and the Institute of Microbiology, CAS for laboratory assistance and helpful discussions.


  • Homothallism
  • Hypocreales
  • MAT1-1 idiomorph
  • Mating type
  • Pseudohomothallism
  • Sexual reproduction


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