Agaricomycetes species-level dated tree of wood-decay fungi. The species-level chronogram is based on the maximum clade credibility tree (MCCT) topology, dated with two fossils indicated by black points. Clades: (1) Auriporia-Crustoderma (Polyporales), (2) Antrodia-Fomitopsis (Polyporales), (3) Gloeophyllum-Neolentinus (Gloeophyllales), (4) Fistulina (Agaricales), (5) Serpula-Hygrophoropsis (Boletales). Blue bars on the brown rot crown nodes indicate confidence intervals (HPD) from 100 alternative trees. For a detailed maximum likelihood phylogeny with SH support values and tip labels.

Evolutionary dynamics of host specialization in wood-decay fungi


Background: The majority of wood decomposing fungi are mushroom-forming Agaricomycetes, which exhibit two main modes of plant cell wall decomposition: white rot, in which all plant cell wall components are degraded, including lignin, and brown rot, in which lignin is modified but not appreciably removed. Previous studies suggested that brown rot fungi tend to be specialists of gymnosperm hosts and that brown rot promotes gymnosperm specialization. However, these hypotheses were based on analyses of limited datasets of Agaricomycetes. Overcoming this limitation, we used a phylogeny with 1157 species integrating available sequences, assembled decay mode characters from the literature, and coded host specialization using the newly developed R package, rusda. Results: We found that most brown rot fungi are generalists or gymnosperm specialists, whereas most white rot fungi are angiosperm specialists. A six-state model of the evolution of host specialization revealed high transition rates between generalism and specialization in both decay modes. However, while white rot lineages switched most frequently to angiosperm specialists, brown rot lineages switched most frequently to generalism. A time- calibrated phylogeny revealed that Agaricomycetes is older than the flowering plants but many of the large clades originated after the diversification of the angiosperms in the Cretaceous. Conclusions: Our results challenge the current view that brown rot fungi are primarily gymnosperm specialists and reveal intensive white rot specialization to angiosperm hosts. We thus suggest that brown rot associated convergent loss of lignocellulose degrading enzymes was correlated with host generalism, rather than gymnosperm specialism. A likelihood model of host specialization evolution together with a time-calibrated phylogeny further suggests that the rise of the angiosperms opened a new mega-niche for wood-decay fungi, which was exploited particularly well by white rot lineages.

In BMC Evolutionary Biology, BMC Evo Biol.