Population genomic analyses reveal evidence for limited recombination in the superbug Candida auris in nature
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Candida auris is a recently emerged, multidrug-resistant pathogenic yeast capable of causing a diversity of human infections worldwide. Genetic analyses based on whole-genome sequences have clustered strains in this species into five divergent clades, with each clade containing limited genetic variation and one of two mating types, MTL a or MTL α. The patterns of genetic variations suggest simultaneous emergence and clonal expansion of multiple clades of this pathogen across the world. At present, it is unclear whether recombination has played any role during the evolution of C. auris. In this study, we analyzed patterns of associations among single nucleotide polymorphisms in both the nuclear and the mitochondrial genomes of 1,285 strains to investigate potential signatures of recombination in natural C. auris populations. Overall, we found that polymorphisms in the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes clustered the strains similarly into the five clades, consistent with a lack of evidence for recombination among the clades after their divergence. However, variable percentages of SNP pairs showed evidence of phylogenetic incompatibility and linkage equilibrium among samples in both the nuclear and the mitochondrial genomes, with the percentages higher in the total population than those within individual clades. Our results are consistent with limited but greater frequency of recombination before the divergence of the clades than afterwards. SNPs at loci related to antifungal resistance showed frequencies of recombination similar to or lower than those observed for SNPs in other parts of the genome. Together, though very limited, evidence for the observed recombination for both before and after the divergence of the clades suggests the possibility for continuous genetic exchange in natural populations of this important yeast pathogen.
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