Loss of the flagellum happened only once in the fungal lineage: phylogenetic structure of Kingdom Fungi inferred from RNA polymerase II subunit genes
Establishing the phylogeny of fungi and protists often has proved difficult owing to the simple morphologies and convergent characters in these organisms. We used DNA sequences of nuclear small-subunit ribosomal RNA genes to determine phylogenetic relationships among three major classes of organisms considered to be fungi--Basidiomycetes, Ascomycetes and Chytridiomycetes--and to assess the taxonomic position of Neocallimastix, an economically important anaerobic rumen microorganism whose classification is controversial. The Basidiomycetes and Ascomycetes, two classes of nonflagellated fungi, are the most closely related taxa. Chytridiomycetes, though bearing flagella, group with these higher fungi rather than with the protists. Neocallimastix, a eukaryote lacking mitochondria and variously classified as a protist or as a fungus, shows closest molecular affinities with the Chytridiomycete fungi in the order Spizellomycetales.