Colletotrichum navitas CBS125086 v1.0
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Colletotrichum on its hosts.
Colletotrichum on its hosts.
Image Credit: Riccardo Baroncelli

The genus Colletotrichum (phylum Ascomycota, subphylum Sordariomycetes, order Glomerelalles) contains at least 150 species divided into ten major clades. One of the largest of these is the Colletotrichum acutatum species complex (CAsc), which includes fungal pathogens that infect a wide diversity of plants in natural and managed ecosystems. The species complex has a very wide host range, and strains have been associated with diseases of more than 90 genera of plants and at least three insect species. The complex taxonomy of CAsc reflects a complexity in evolutionary history, likely brought about by recent host jumps and/or changes in host range followed by adaptation. The CAsc also display great diversity of reproductive behaviors although most species seem to have lost their mating capability. Thus, the CAsc are excellent candidates for studying the process of speciation, host adaptation and the evolution of mating behavior.

Members of CAsc also show significant expansions in gene families associated with carbohydrate metabolism, particularly in families of xyloglucanases and other plant cell wall degrading enzymes and possibly contain the largest diversity of carbohydrate active enzymes in the Ascomycetes. How this repertoire of enzymes has evolved, and why CAsc species maintain such diversity is unknown. Comparative analysis of these species will give us insight into the mode and tempo of gene duplications, selective pressures and other evolutionary processes that lead expansion of carbohydrate active enzymes.