Phycomyces nitens S607 v1.0
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Asexual reproduction of P. nitens strain S608.  Figure from Alexander Idnurm.
Asexual reproduction of P. nitens strain S608. Figure from Alexander Idnurm.

Phycomyces nitens is one of the two species in the genus Phycomyces in the Mucoromycota, a visually striking genus of fungi because of the production of large asexual sporangia.  The best-studied species in terms of genetics and gene functions is P. blakesleeanus whose genome has been sequenced by JGI (Corrochano et al. 2016), and less is known about P. nitens. P. nitens and P. blakesleeanus are highly similar in their appearance in terms of asexual sporulation and their sexual zygospores, to the extent that at one point they were distinguished based on the size of the asexual spores.  However, they are reproductively isolated from one another (Benjamin and Hesseltine 1959) and at the molecular level appear to have considerable divergence in DNA sequences (Camino et al. 2015).  The Phycomyces species are saprophytes, while the only other genus in the family Phycomycetaceae, Spinellus, features species that are parasites of mushrooms. Sequencing of P. nitens will reveal aspects about genome evolution in this family and the order Mucorales, the expansion of the sex locus responsible for mating, and insights into genetic diversity for understanding population genetics and speciation in this iconic Mucoromycota genus.


Benjamin CR, Hesseltine CW. 1959. Studies on the genus Phycomyces. Mycologia 51: 751-771.
Camino LP, Idnurm A, Cerdá-Olmedo E. 2015. Diversity, ecology, and evolution in Phycomyces. Fungal Biology 119: 1007-1021.
Corrochano et al. 2016. Expansion of signal transduction pathways in fungi by extensive genome duplication. Current Biology 26:1577-1584.