The actin gene has been studied as a potential phylogenetic marker for selected members of the anamorphic genus Candida and seven related teleomorphic genera (Debaryomyces, Issatchenkia, Kluyveromyces, Saccharomyces and Pichia from the Saccharomycetaceae; Clavispora and Metschnikowia from the Metschnikowiaceae). The nucleotide sequences of 36 fungal taxa were analysed with respect to their molecular evolution and phylogenetic relationships. A total of 460 bp (47%) of the coding 979 bp were variable and 396 bp (40%) of these were found to be phylogenetically informative. Further analysis of the sequences showed that the genic G+C contents were higher than the nuclear G+C contents for most of the taxa. A strong positive correlation was found between G+C content over all codon positions and third positions. First and second codon positions were considered to be independent of the genic G+C content. The expected transition/transversion bias was detected only for third positions. Pairwise comparisons of transitional and transversional changes (substitutions) with total percentage sequence divergences revealed that the third position transitions showed no saturation for ingroup comparisons. A specific weighting scheme was set up, combining codon-position weights with change-frequency weights to enable the inclusion of distant outgroup taxa. Parsimony analyses of the investigated taxa showed four groups, three of which corresponded to major clusters that had been established previously in Candida by rDNA analysis. Interrelationships among the species groups in this heterogeneous anamorphic genus were determined. The polyphyletic origin of the selected Candida species and their close associations with several ascomycete genera were verified and known anamorph/teleomorph pairs confirmed. The actin gene was established as a valuable phylogenetic marker with the particular advantage of an unambiguous alignment.


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