Identification of Clinically Relevant Fungi and Prototheca Species by rRNA Gene Sequencing and Multilocus PCR Coupled with Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry


Multilocus PCR coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) is a new strategy for pathogen identification, but information about its application in fungal identification remains sparse.


One-hundred and twelve strains and isolates of clinically important fungi and Prototheca species were subjected to both rRNA gene sequencing and PCR/ESI-MS. Three regions of the rRNA gene were used as targets for sequencing: the 5′ end of the large subunit rRNA gene (D1/D2 region), and the internal transcribed spacers 1 and 2 (ITS1 and ITS2 regions). Microbial identification (Micro ID), acquired by combining results of phenotypic methods and rRNA gene sequencing, was used to evaluate the results of PCR/ESI-MS.


For identification of yeasts and filamentous fungi, combined sequencing of the three regions had the best performance (species-level identification rate of 93.8% and 81.8% respectively). The highest species-level identification rate was achieved by sequencing of D1/D2 for yeasts (92.2%) and ITS2 for filamentous fungi (75.8%). The two Prototheca species could be identified to species level by D1/D2 sequencing but not by ITS1 or ITS2. For the 102 strains and isolates within the coverage of PCR/ESI-MS identification, 87.3% (89/102) achieved species-level identification, 100% (89/89) of which were concordant to Micro ID on species/complex level. The species-level identification rates for yeasts and filamentous fungi were 93.9% (62/66) and 75% (27/36) respectively.


rRNA gene sequencing provides accurate identification information, with the best results obtained by a combination of ITS1, ITS2 and D1/D2 sequencing. Our preliminary data indicated that PCR/ESI-MS method also provides a rapid and accurate identification for many clinical relevant fungi.