The taxonomy and phylogenetics of the human and animal pathogen Rhinosporidium seeberi: a critical review

Raquel Vilela, Leonel Mendoza
Revista Iberoamericana de MicologĂ­a 2012, 29 (4): 185-99
Rhinosporidum seeberi is the etiologic agent of rhinosporidiosis, a disease of mucous membranes and infrequent of the skin and other tissues of humans and animals. Because it resists culture, for more than 100 years true taxonomic identity of R. seeberi has been controversial. Three hypotheses in a long list of related views have been recently introduced: 1) a prokaryote cyanobacterium in the genus Microcystis is the etiologic agent of rhinosporidiosis, 2) R. seeberi is a eukaryote pathogen in the Mesomycetozoa and 3) R. seeberi is a fungus. The reviewed literature on the electron microscopic, the histopathological and more recently the data from several molecular studies strongly support the view that R. seeberi is a eukaryote pathogen, but not a fungus. The suggested morphological resemblance of R. seeberi with the genera Microcystis (bacteria), Synchytrium and Colletotrichum (fungi) by different teams is merely hypothetical and lacked the scientific rigor needed to validate the proposed systems. A fundamental aspect against the prokaryote theory is the presence of nuclei reported by numerous authors and updated in this review. Moreover, Microcystis's and Synchytrium's ultra-structural and key cell cycle traits cannot be found in R. seeberi parasitic phase. The PCR amplification of a cyanobacteria 16S rDNA sequence from cases of rhinosporidiosis, while intriguing, will be viewed here as an anomaly due to contamination with environmental Microcystis or perhaps as an endosymbiotic acquisition of plastids from cyanobacteria ancestors. Thus, even if R. seeberi possesses prokaryote DNA, this does not prove that R. seeberi is a cyanobacterium. The placement of R. seeberi within the fungi is scientifically untenable. The isolation and the DNA analysis performed in a fungal strain, and the lack of appropriate controls are the main problems of this claim. Further studies are needed to validate R. seeberi's acquisition of prokaryote plastids and other issues that still need careful scrutiny.

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