BACKGROUND: Candida glabrata follows C. albicans as the second or third most prevalent cause of candidemia worldwide. These two pathogenic yeasts are distantly related, C. glabrata being part of the Nakaseomyces, a group more closely related to Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Although C. glabrata was thought to be the only pathogenic Nakaseomyces, two new pathogens have recently been described within this group: C. nivariensis and C. bracarensis. To gain insight into the genomic changes underlying the emergence of virulence, we sequenced the genomes of these two, and three other non-pathogenic Nakaseomyces, and compared them to other sequenced yeasts. RESULTS: Our results indicate that the two new pathogens are more closely related to the non-pathogenic N. delphensis than to C. glabrata. We uncover duplications and accelerated evolution that specifically affected genes in the lineage preceding the group containing N. delphensis and the three pathogens, which may provide clues to the higher propensity of this group to infect humans. Finally, the number of Epa-like adhesins is specifically enriched in the pathogens, particularly in C. glabrata. CONCLUSIONS: Remarkably, some features thought to be the result of adaptation of C. glabrata to a pathogenic lifestyle, are present throughout the Nakaseomyces, indicating these are rather ancient adaptations to other environments. Phylogeny suggests that human pathogenesis evolved several times, independently within the clade. The expansion of the EPA gene family in pathogens establishes an evolutionary link between adhesion and virulence phenotypes. Our analyses thus shed light onto the relationships between virulence and the recent genomic changes that occurred within the Nakaseomyces.Sequence Accession Numbers: Nakaseomyces delphensis: CAPT01000001 to CAPT01000179Candida bracarensis: CAPU01000001 to CAPU01000251Candida nivariensis: CAPV01000001 to CAPV01000123Candida castellii: CAPW01000001 to CAPW01000101Nakaseomyces bacillisporus: CAPX01000001 to CAPX01000186.
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