Early diverging insect-pathogenic fungi of the order entomophthorales possess diverse and unique subtilisin-like serine proteases.
Insect-pathogenic fungi use subtilisin-like serine proteases (SLSPs) to degrade chitin-associated proteins in the insect procuticle. Most insect-pathogenic fungi in the order Hypocreales (Ascomycota) are generalist species with a broad host-range, and most species possess a high number of SLSPs. The other major clade of insect-pathogenic fungi is part of the subphylum Entomophthoromycotina (Zoopagomycota, formerly Zygomycota) which consists of high host-specificity insect-pathogenic fungi that naturally only infect a single or very few host species. The extent to which insect-pathogenic fungi in the order Entomophthorales rely on SLSPs is unknown. Here we take advantage of recently available transcriptomic and genomic datasets from four genera within Entomophthoromycotina: the saprobic or opportunistic pathogens Basidiobolus meristosporus, Conidiobolus coronatus, C. thromboides, C. incongruus, and the host-specific insect pathogens Entomophthora muscae and Pandora formicae, specific pathogens of house flies (Muscae domestica) and wood ants (Formica polyctena), respectively. In total 154 SLSP from six fungi in the subphylum Entomophthoromycotina were identified: E. muscae (n = 22), P. formicae (n = 6), B. meristosporus (n = 60), C. thromboides (n = 18), C. coronatus (n = 36), and C. incongruus (n = 12). A unique group of 11 SLSPs was discovered in the genomes of the obligate biotrophic fungi E. muscae, P. formicae and the saprobic human pathogen C. incongruus that loosely resembles bacillopeptidase F-like SLSPs. Phylogenetics and protein domain analysis show this class represents a unique group of SLSPs so far only observed among Bacteria, Oomycetes and early diverging fungi such as Cryptomycota, Microsporidia, and Entomophthoromycotina. This group of SLSPs is missing in the sister fungal lineages of Kickxellomycotina and the fungal phyla Mucoromyocta, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota fungi suggesting interesting gene loss patterns.