Rhodosporidium toruloides is a heterothallic, bipolar, red yeast that belongs to the Sporidiobolales, an order within a major lineage of basidiomycetes, the Pucciniomycotina. In contrast to other basidiomycetes, considerably less is known about the nature of the mating type (MAT) loci that control sexual reproduction in this lineage. Three genes (RHA1, RHA2 and RHA3) encoding precursors of the MAT A1 pheromone (rhodotorucine A) were previously identified and formed the basis for a genome walking approach that led to the identification of additional MAT genes in complementary mating strains of R. toruloides. Two mating type-specific alleles encoding a PAK kinase (Ste20 homolog) were found between the RHA2 and RHA3 genes, and identification in MAT A2 strains of a gene encoding a presumptive pheromone precursor enabled prediction of the structure of rhodotorucine a. In addition, a putative pheromone receptor gene (STE3 homolog) was identified upstream of RHA1. Analyses of genomic data from two closely related species, Sporobolomyces roseus and Sporidiobolus salmonicolor, identified syntenic regions that contain homologs of all the above-mentioned genes. Notably, six novel pheromone precursor genes were uncovered containing, similarly to the RHA genes, multiple tandem copies of the peptide moiety. This suggests that this structure, which is unique among fungal lipopeptide pheromones, seems to be prevalent in red yeasts. Species comparisons provided evidence for a large, multigenic MAT locus structure in the Sporidiobolales, but no putative homeodomain transcription factor genes, which are present in all basidiomycetous MAT loci characterized thus far, could be found in any of the three species close to the MAT genes identified.
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