2020 journal article
Genetic transformation of Spizellomyces punctatus, a resource for studying chytrid biology and evolutionary cell biology
Chytrids are early-diverging fungi that share features with animals that have been lost in most other fungi. They hold promise as a system to study fungal and animal evolution, but we lack genetic tools for hypothesis testing. Here, we generated transgenic lines of the chytrid Spizellomyces punctatus, and used fluorescence microscopy to explore chytrid cell biology and development during its life cycle. We show that the chytrid undergoes multiple rounds of synchronous nuclear division, followed by cellularization, to create and release many daughter ‘zoospores’. The zoospores, akin to animal cells, crawl using actin-mediated cell migration. After forming a cell wall, polymerized actin reorganizes into fungal-like cortical patches and cables that extend into hyphal-like structures. Actin perinuclear shells form each cell cycle and polygonal territories emerge during cellularization. This work makes Spizellomyces a genetically tractable model for comparative cell biology and understanding the evolution of fungi and early eukaryotes.