We have sequenced the genomes of 18 isolates of the closely related human pathogenic fungi Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii to more clearly elucidate population genomic structure, bringing the total number of sequenced genomes for each species to 10. Our data confirm earlier microsatellite-based findings that these species are genetically differentiated, but our population genomics approach reveals that hybridization and genetic introgression have recently occurred between the two species. The directionality of introgression is primarily from C. posadasii to C. immitis, and we find more than 800 genes exhibiting strong evidence of introgression in one or more sequenced isolates. We performed PCR-based sequencing of one region exhibiting introgression in 40 C. immitis isolates to confirm and better define the extent of gene flow between the species. We find more coding sequence than expected by chance in the introgressed regions, suggesting that natural selection may play a role in the observed genetic exchange. We find notable heterogeneity in repetitive sequence composition among the sequenced genomes and present the first detailed genome-wide profile of a repeat-induced point mutation (RIP) process distinctly different from what has been observed in Neurospora. We identify promiscuous HLA-I and HLA-II epitopes in both proteomes and discuss the possible implications of introgression and population genomic data for public health and vaccine candidate prioritization. This study highlights the importance of population genomic data for detecting subtle but potentially important phenomena such as introgression.
The numbers of reported cases of coccidioidomycosis in Arizona and California have risen dramatically over the past decade, with a 97.8% and 91.1% increase in incidence rates from 2001 to 2006 in the two states, respectively. Of those cases with reported race/ethnicity information, Black/African Americans in Arizona and Hispanics and African/Americans in California experienced a disproportionately higher frequency of disease compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Lack of early diagnosis continues to be a problem, particularly in suspect community-acquired pneumonia, underscoring the need for more rapid and sensitive tests. Similarly, the inability of currently available therapeutics to reduce the duration and morbidity of this disease underscores the need for improved therapeutics and a preventive vaccine.