Look out for these new Genera in the Mortierellaceae!

There are some notable changes in taxonomy of  Mortierellaceae, following the publication of ‘Resolving the Mortierellaceae phylogeny through synthesis of multi-gene phylogenetics and phylogenomics’ in Fungal Diversity1. This paper, led by recent PhD graduate Natalie Vandepol from Gregory Bonito’s lab at Michigan State University, is the result of a multi-lab ZyGoLife collaboration including Jason Stajich at University of California, Riverside and Kerry O’Donnell from the USDA ARS in Peoria, IL. In this research, low coverage sequencing (~10X) phylogenomic approaches were used to provide backbone support for major clades in the Mortierellaceae, which was combined with multi-locus phylogenetics of single copy protein genes to generate a phylogeny that included 314 isolates representing at least 48 taxa in the family. A total of 13 genera are circumscribed in this paper, including 7 that are newly proposed. 

Among these are four genera named in tribute to fungal scientists and their careers. These include

  • Benniella, named in honor of the American mycologist Gerald Benny who has dedicated his career to the study of zygomyceteous fungi, and has made important contributions to the taxonomy of fungi in the Mortierellomycotina; 
  • Gryganskiella, in honor of Andrii Gryganskyi, a Ukrainian-American mycologist who has contributed to research, training and genomics of fungi in the Mucoromycota; 
  • Podila, in honor of Gopi Podila, an Indian American biologist who advanced the fields of plant-microbe interactions, plant genetics and biotechnology of bioenergy crops;
  • Linnemannia, in honor of Germaine Linnemann, a German mycologist who contributed to many early species descriptions and hypothesis on their evolutionary relationships. 

The other proposed genera, Entomortierella, Necromortierella, Lunasporangiospora are named after suggested ecology or morphology of inclusive members, respectively. The genus Mortierella was retained for the Alpina clade, which includes the type species M. polycephela, as were Dissophora, Modicella, Gamsiella, and Lobosporangium. Finally, the genera Actinomortierella and Aquamortierella were resurrected. 

Low coverage genome sequencing has become a cost-effective tool in phylogenomics. We expect to learn more about the diverse ecologies and genomic capacities that differentiate these genera of Mortierellaceae as this newly proposed taxonomy for the family becomes adopted and integrated into taxonomic sequence classifiers.  

This work was supported through the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute and grants from the National Science Foundation and USDA-NIFA.

1 Natalie Vandepol, Julian Liber, Alessandro Desirò, Hyunsoo Na, Megan Kennedy, Kerrie Barry, Igor V Grigoriev, Andrew N Miller, Kerry O’Donnell, Jason E Stajich, Gregory Bonito. Resolving the Mortierellaceae phylogeny through synthesis of multi-gene phylogenetics and phylogenomics. Fungal Diversity (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13225-020-00455-5 

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