Self-fertility in fungi -- the secrets of 'DIY reproduction'

August 16, 2007

Research from The University of Nottingham sheds new light on a fascinating phenomenon of the natural world — the ability of some species to reproduce sexually without a partner.

Scientists have been trying to determine how individuals of a key fungus, Aspergillus nidulans, are able to have sex without the need for a partner.

In new findings published in the journal Current Biology on August 2, they reveal that the fungus has evolved to incorporate the two different sexes into the same individual.

This means that when sex occurs the fungus activates its internal sexual machinery and in essence ‘mates with itself’ to produce new offspring, rather than bypassing the sexual act.

This is a significant discovery as it helps scientists to understand how fungi reproduce in general. Fungi can cause health problems in humans and other serious animal and plant diseases, but are also useful as sources of pharmaceuticals and food products.

The long-term aim of the research is to be able to manipulate fungal sex to our own advantage, to prevent disease and help produce better strains for use in the food and biotech industries.

Dr Paul Dyer, of the School of Biology, was lead author of the study. He said: “When we think of sex in the animal world we normally associate it with males and females attracting each other and then coming together for the sexual act.”

“But things are different in the fungal and plant kingdoms, where a lot of species are ‘self fertile’. This means that they are able to have sex to produce spores and seeds without the need for a compatible partner. Our findings show that Aspergillus nidulans provides a true example of ‘DIY sex’.”

Self-fertilisation is thought to have developed in some plant and fungal species as a response to a scarcity of compatible mating partners. It also allows species to maintain a combination of genes — called a genotype — that is well adapted to surviving in a certain environment.

Aspergillus nidulans is often used as a model organism for scientists studying a wide range of subjects including basic genetic problems that are also applicable to humans, including recombination, DNA repair and cell metabolism.

Source: University of Nottingham

Explore further: New moth species discovered in Denmark

Related Stories

Five surprising things DNA has revealed about our ancestors

February 16, 2018

Researchers recently used DNA from the 10,000-year-old "Cheddar Man", one of Britain's oldest skeletons, to unveil what the first inhabitants of what now is Britain actually looked like. But this isn't the first time DNA ...

X chromosome not the reason for sex differences in lifespan

February 13, 2018

The shorter average lifespan of males compared to females appears not to be a result of the fact that males have only one X chromosome. This is the conclusion from a research study on fruit flies at Linköping University, ...

Microbiome research refines HIV risk for women

January 25, 2018

Drawing from data collected for years by AIDS researchers in six African nations, scientists have pinpointed seven bacterial species whose presence in high concentrations may significantly increase the risk of HIV infection ...

Recommended for you

Hauling antiprotons around in a van

February 22, 2018

A team of researchers working on the antiProton Unstable Matter Annihilation (PUMA) project near CERN's particle laboratory, according to a report in Nature, plans to capture a billion antiprotons, put them in a shipping ...

Urban heat island effects depend on a city's layout

February 22, 2018

The arrangement of a city's streets and buildings plays a crucial role in the local urban heat island effect, which causes cities to be hotter than their surroundings, researchers have found. The new finding could provide ...

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.