Longevity of Fungal Mycelia and Nuclear Quality Checks: a New Hypothesis for the Role of Clamp Connections in Dikaryons

Duur Aanen*, Anouk van ’t Padje, Benjamin Auxier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper addresses the stability of mycelial growth in fungi and differences between ascomycetes and basidiomycetes. Starting with general evolutionary theories of multicellularity and the role of sex, we then discuss individuality in fungi. Recent research has demonstrated the deleterious consequences of nucleus-level selection in fungal mycelia, favoring cheaters with a nucleus-level benefit during spore formation but a negative effect on mycelium-level fitness. Cheaters appear to generally be loss-of-fusion (LOF) mutants, with a higher propensity to form aerial hyphae developing into asexual spores. Since LOF mutants rely on heterokaryosis with wild-type nuclei, we argue that regular single-spore bottlenecks can efficiently select against such cheater mutants. We then zoom in on ecological differences between ascomycetes being typically fast-growing but short-lived with frequent asexual-spore bottlenecks and basidiomycetes being generally slow-growing but long-lived and usually without asexual-spore bottlenecks. We argue that these life history differences have coevolved with stricter nuclear quality checks in basidiomycetes. Specifically, we propose a new function for clamp connections, structures formed during the sexual stage in ascomycetes and basidiomycetes but during somatic growth only in basidiomycete dikaryons. During dikaryon cell division, the two haploid nuclei temporarily enter a monokaryotic phase, by alternatingly entering a retrograde-growing clamp cell, which subsequently fuses with the subapical cell to recover the dikaryotic cell. We hypothesize that clamp connections act as screening devices for nuclear quality, with both nuclei continuously testing each other for fusion ability, a test that LOF mutants will fail. By linking differences in longevity of the mycelial phase to ecology and stringency of nuclear quality checks, we propose that mycelia have a constant and low lifetime cheating risk, irrespective of their size and longevity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number e00022-21
JournalMicrobiology and Molecular Biology Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2023


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