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Communication in Fungi

DOI: 10.1155/2012/351832

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We will discuss fungal communication in the context of fundamental biological functions including mating, growth, morphogenesis, and the regulation of fungal virulence determinants. We will address intraspecies but also interkingdom signaling by systematically discussing the sender of the message, the molecular message, and receiver. Analyzing communication shows the close coevolution of fungi with organisms present in their environment giving insights into multispecies communication. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying microbial communication will promote our understanding of the “fungal communicome.” 1. Introduction Any form of communication requires the existence of three obligatory components: a sender, a message, and a receiver. The process starts with the release of a message by a sender and ends with the understanding of the message by a receiver. This type of cycle has been developed with different degrees of complexity from prokaryote to higher eukaryotes optimizing fitness and adaptation for individual members and populations. The nature and mode of action of communication is as diverse as the response to the information it carries. Inter- and intraspecies communication has been widely studied analyzing the exchange of information between fungi and bacteria or fungi and plant cells [1, 2]. This review will focus predominantly on intraspecies fungal communication addressing key biological functions including mating, growth, morphological switching, or the regulation of virulence factor expression (Figure 1). We will show that in the fungal kingdom most of these mechanisms are controlled by a variety of messengers including small peptides, alcohols, lipids, and volatile compounds. Figure 1: Schematic representation of fungal intra and interspecies communication. The “sender” is an organism from the fungal kingdom and the “receiver” can be from any kingdom. Genes involved in messenger synthesis are represented as brown hexagons. Proteins involved in secretion or receiving the message are in orange and blue. 2. Peptides: Pheromones Pheromones have been known to act as an informative molecule since 1959 [3] and were reported to be involved in the sexual cycle of fungi in 1974 [4]. In the fungal kingdom, they are involved in the reconnaissance of compatible sexual partner to promote plasmogamy and karyogamy between two opposite mating types followed by meiosis. Taking the example of the extensively described sexual cycle of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, pheromones are diffusible peptides called a-factor (12 aa) when produced by


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