Black Yeasts Database

Capronia coronata CBS 617.96

Project Description

The black yeasts, a group of melanized Ascomycete fungi, include species adapted to grow in humans or in other hosts. Within the fungal kingdom, the black yeasts fall within the Eurotiomycetes,[1] which include a wide group of human pathogens such as Coccidioides posadasii and Aspergillus fumigatus. Several black yeasts, members of the subclass Chaetothyriomycetidae and order Chaetothyriales, are among the most pathogenic fungi known to date; these species possess a potential to cause fatal brain infection in perfectly healthy individuals. Their significant invasive potential is expressed in a diversity of clinical syndromes in immunocompromised but particularly in immunocompetent patients.[2,3] Our goal is to generate genome assemblies and annotations for 15 important species of black yeasts selected to represent important pathogens, host shifts, and phylogenetic diversity.

Project Information

The black yeast comparative genomics project is part of the Broad Institute Fungal Genome Initiative. Its goal is to release high coverage Illumina assemblies for 15 species of black yeasts, and predict genes using homology, ab initio, and RNA-sequence based approaches. The first genome sequenced, Exophiala (Wangiella) dermatitidis is supported by the NHGRI under the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). Another 14 genomes are described in a white paper supported by NHGRI.

Wangiella dermatitidis is a black (melanized) fungus that is recognized as a paradigm for the emerging human mycosis known as phaeohyphomycosis and also as a model for the more than one hundred other black fungi known to cause human disease.[4,5,6] Since its first isolation in Japan in 1937 and its description as a skin pathogen, Wangiella has been assigned to numerous Fungi Imperfecti genera, is known to have a world-wide distribution, and has been isolated from most body sites, including the brain, in both immunocompromised and immunocompetent patients. Its elevation to model status for the black fungi is based on its polymorphism, which can be manipulated experimentally to produce for detailed study homogeneous populations of all of the morphotypes characteristic in vivo and in vitro of the other pathogenic black fungi. In addition, and to date, it is the only black fungal pathogen of humans for which numerous molecular tools are available for study of its biology and the basis of its virulence.

Project Leadership

The primary collaborators of the black yeast comparative genomics project include:

  • Genome sequencing of Wangiella (Exophiala) dermatitidis:
    • Zheng Wang, Naval Research Laboratory
    • Paul J. Szaniszlo and Scott Hunicke-Smith, University of Texas, Austin
  • Black Yeast white paper (14 genomes):
    • Sybren de Hoog, CBS Fungal Biodiversity Center
    • Anna Gorbushina, Free University of Berlin and Federal Insitute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)
    • ISHAM Black Yeast working group

    Christina Cuomo, Broad Institute


  1. Geiser, D. M., C. Gueidan, J. Miadlikowska, F. Lutzoni, F. Kauff, V. Hofstetter, E. Fraker, C. L. Schoch, L. Tibell, W. A. Untereiner, and A. Aptroot. 2006. Eurotiomycetes: Eurotiomycetidae and Chaetothyriomycetidae. Mycologia 98, 1053-1064.
  2. Zheng, J. S., D. A. Sutton, A. W. Fothergill, M. G. Rinaldi, J. Harrak, G. S. de Hoog. 2007. Spectrum of clinically relevant Exophiala species in the United States. J. Clin. Microbiol. 45, 3713-3720.
  3. Horre, R., and G.S. de Hoog. 1999. Primary cerebral infections by melanized fungi: a review. p.176-193. In G. S. de Hoog (ed.). Studies in Mycology 43. Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures, Baarn/Delft, The Netherlands.
  4. Matsumoto, T., L. Ajello, T. Matsuda, P. J. Szaniszlo and T. J. Walsh. Developments in hyalohyphomycosis and phaeohyphomycosis. J. Med. Vet. Mycol. Suppl. 32 (1994) 329-349.
  5. Szaniszlo, P. J. Molecular genetic studies of the model dematiaceous pathogen Wangiella dermatitidis. Int. J. Med. Microbiol. 292 (2002) 283-289.
  6. Szaniszlo, P. J. Virulence factors in black molds with emphasis on melanin, chitin and Wangiella as a molecularly tractable model, p. 407-428. In: J. Heitman, S. G. Filler, J. E. Edwards and A. P. Mitchell (ed). Molecular Principles of Fungal Pathogenesis. (2006). ASM Press, Washington, D.C.