An unusual sexual stage in the alkalophilic ascomycete Sodiomyces alkalinus
Exploring life cycles of fungi is insightful for understanding their basic biology and can highlight their ecology. Here, we dissected the sexual and asexual life cycles of the obligate alkalophilic ascomycete Sodiomyces alkalinus that thrives at extremely high pH of soda lakes. Sodiomyces alkalinus develops acremonium-type asexual sporulation, commonly found in ascomycetous fungi. However, the sexual stage was unusual, featuring very early lysis of asci which release young ascospores inside a fruit body long before its maturation. In a young fruit body, a slimy matrix which originates from the combined epiplasm of asci and united cytoplasm of the pseudoparenchymal cells, surrounds pooled maturing ascospores. Upon maturity, the ascospores are forcibly released through a crack in the fruit body, presumably due to an increased turgor pressure. These features of the sexual stage development resemble the ones found in unrelated marine fungi, indicating convergent evolution of the trait. We hypothesise these developmental features of S. alkalinus to be adaptive in the conditions of periodically inundated rims of soda lakes where the fungus thrives.