Gene presence-absence polymorphism in castrating anther-smut fungi: Recent gene Gains and Phylogeographic Structure.
Gene presence-absence polymorphisms segregating within species are a significant source of genetic variation but have been little investigated to date in natural populations. In plant pathogens, the gain or loss of genes encoding proteins interacting directly with the host, such as secreted proteins, probably plays an important role in coevolution and local adaptation. We investigated gene presence-absence polymorphism in populations of two closely related species of castrating anther-smut fungi, Microbotryum lychnidis-dioicae (MvSl) and M. silenes-dioicae (MvSd), from across Europe, on the basis of Illumina genome sequencing data and high-quality genome references. We observed presence-absence polymorphism for 186 autosomal genes (2% of all genes) in MvSl, and only 51 autosomal genes in MvSd. Distinct genes displayed presence-absence polymorphism in the two species. Genes displaying presence-absence polymorphism were frequently located in subtelomeric and centromeric regions and close to repetitive elements, and comparison with outgroups indicated that most were present in a single species, being recently acquired through duplications in multiple-gene families. Gene presence-absence polymorphism in MvSl showed a phylogeographic structure corresponding to clusters detected based on SNPs. In addition, gene absence alleles were rare within species and skewed toward low-frequency variants. These findings are consistent with a deleterious or neutral effect for most gene presence-absence polymorphism. Some of the observed gene loss and gain events may however be adaptive, as suggested by the putative functions of the corresponding encoded proteins (e.g., secreted proteins) or their localization within previously identified selective sweeps. The adaptive roles in plant and anther-smut fungi interactions of candidate genes however need to be experimentally tested in future studies.