It is clear that there exists a huge bias in genomic sampling efforts across the diversity of the eukaryotic tree. For example, the Opisthokonta, the clade that includes Fungi and Metazoa, continues to be by far the most well-sampled eukaryotic superclade, whereas genomic data on Excavata and Rhizaria remain scarce. In this meeting more than half of the presentations concerned the analysis of genomes and/or transcriptomes of Fungi, which is not surprising given that more than 200 fungal genomes have been sequenced to date. Such comprehensive genome sampling enables studies at the level of population genomics, some of which are providing important insights into the subtelomeric regions. It is becoming widely accepted that subtelomeric genes show increased rates of duplication and undergo frequent ectopic recombination without the need for meiosis. Thus, these subtelomeric regions may play important roles in the origin of evolutionary innovation and, specifically, in the generation of genetic diversity. Good examples of this, presented by Kevin Verstrepen (VIB Laboratory for Systems Biology, Belgium), are the yeast MAL genes that show interesting patterns of subfunctionalitzation of the resulting duplicates. Another good example is the evolution of variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) genes, which produce an important surface glycoprotein, in the kinetoplastid parasite Trypanosoma brucei (Lindsey Plenderleith, University of Glasgow, UK). Moreover, Patrick Keeling (University of British Columbia, Canada) presented comparative genomic analyses of several species of microsporidians, as well as three different strains of Encephalitozoon. Microsporidians have among the smallest eukaryotic genomes as a result of their adaptation to intracellular parasitism. Keeling's analysis revealed higher variation in subtelomeric regions than in the rest of the genome, and a high degree of conservation in synteny and intergenic regions.
Another good reason to study fungi relates to the interesting field of experimental evolution. Sophisticated molecular biology techniques and extensive genomic sampling enables experiments to be conducted across hundreds of generations in lab conditions. Bernard Dujon (Institute Pasteur, France) presented an interesting series of evolutionary experiments designed to unravel how adaptation works. He reported that they had introduced a metabolic gene from Yarrowia lipolytica inside Saccharomyces cerevisiae, causing a severely unfit phenotype. They subsequently grew this strain for hundreds of generations in non-limiting media, eventually observing an increase in fitness. By genomic re-sequencing they discovered that the insert had been amplified by multiple episomes, which were later re-introduced in tandem repeats inside the genome, allowing an increase in sequence changes. Finally, Jure Piskur (Lund University, Sweden) presented a case of parallel evolution in yeast, in which two distantly related lineages had evolved a convergent lifestyle by re-wiring cis-regulatory motifs of the same metabolic pathway.