Latent homology and convergent regulatory evolution underlies the repeated emergence of yeasts
László G. Nagy, Robin A. Ohm, Gábor M. Kovács, Dimitrios Floudas, Robert Riley, Attila Gácser, Mátyás Sipiczki, John M. Davis, Sharon L. Doty, G Sybren de Hoog, B. Franz Lang, Joseph W. Spatafora, Francis M. Martin, Igor V. Grigoriev, and David S. Hibbett
18 July 2014, Nature Communications 5(4471); doi:10.1038/ncomms5471
Convergent evolution is common throughout the tree of life, but the molecular mechanisms causing similar phenotypes to appear repeatedly are obscure. Yeasts have arisen in multiple fungal clades, but the genetic causes and consequences of their evolutionary origins are unknown. Here we show that the potential to develop yeast forms arose early in fungal evolution and became dominant independently in multiple clades, most likely via parallel diversification of Zn-cluster transcription factors, a fungal-specific family involved in regulating yeast–filamentous switches. Our results imply that convergent evolution can happen by the repeated deployment of a conserved genetic toolkit for the same function in distinct clades via regulatory evolution. We suggest that this mechanism might be a common source of evolutionary convergence even at large time scales.