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Am. J. Biomed. Sci. 2016, 8(2), 123-159; doi: 10.5099/aj160200123
Received: 21 December 2015; | Revised: 27 March 2016; | Accepted: 25 April 2016


The Molecular Heterogeneity of Natural Cordyceps sinensis with Multiple Ophiocordyceps sinensis Fungi Challenges the Anamorph-Teleomorph Connection Hypotheses


Yu-Ling Li1, Yi-Sang Yao2, Wei-Dong Xie2, Jia-Shi Zhu2,3,*

1Qinghai University, Institute of Grassland Research, Qinghai Academy of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Sciences, Xining, Qinghai 810016 China.

2Division of Life Sciences and Health, Tsinghua University Graduate School at Shenzhen, Guangdong 518055, China.

3Department of Applied Biology and ChemistryTechnology, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong.

*Corresponding Author

Jia-Shi Zhu

Division of Life Sciences and Health

Tsinghua University Graduate School at Shenzhen

Guangdong 518055, China

Department of Applied Biology and Chemistry Technology

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Hong Kong

Tel: +18587053789

Fax: +18587775435

E-mail: zhujosh@gmail.com



Natural Cordyceps sinensis is a traditional Chinese medicine with a long history of use as a folk medicine in China. However, whether Ophiocordyceps sinensis is a single fungus or a collective name for multiple fungi remains controversial, as does the anamorph-teleomorph connection of O. sinensis. Although Hirsutella sinensis has been widely considered the soleanamorph of O. sinensis, direct evidence supporting this hypothesis is lacking. This paper reviews the molecular heterogeneity findings of C. sinensis studies and the issues with the hypotheses of the anamorph-teleomorph connection of O. sinensis. Molecular analyses have revealed the coexistence of multiple fungi and multiple genotypes of O. sinensis in natural C. sinensis. Mutant sequences from at least 11 O. sinensis genotypes are registered in GenBank and represent individual fungi distinct from the genome sequence of H. sinensis, which is inconsistent with the "sole anamorph" and "ITS pseudogenes" hypotheses. Together, the multicellular C. sinensis ascospores with mono-/bi-/trinucleate structures in each ascospore and the detection of at least 2 O. sinensis genotypes in the culture of heterokaryotic single-ascospore isolates challenge the study conclusions based on microcycle conidiation of C. sinensis ascospores. During C. sinensis maturation, the fungi that grow differentially in the caterpillar body and stroma of C. sinensis undergo asynchronous, dynamic alterations, supporting the integrated micro-ecosystem hypothesis for natural C. sinensis proposed by Prof. ZongqiLiang.

Keywords: Molecular systematics of Cordyceps sinensis; mutant genotypes of Ophiocordyceps sinensis; insect-fungi complex; anamorph-teleomorph connection; binucleate; trinucleate; multicellular heterokaryons.

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