Multilocus phylogeny of the Trichophyton mentagrophytes species complex and the application of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry for the rapid identification of dermatophytes.Mycologia. 2018 Jan-Feb; 110(1):118-130.M
Despite intensive studies of the Trichophyton mentagrophytes species complex, its taxonomy still causes confusion. In this study, more than 70 dermatophytes were analyzed based on nuc rDNA ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 (ITS), D1-D2 domains of nuc 28S rDNA (D1D2), and β-tubulin gene (TUBB) sequences to clarify phylogenetic relationships in the complex. This demonstrated that strains of the complex were divided into three major lineages with high statistical support: (i) T. benhamiae and related species; (ii) T. simii and two related species, T. quinckeanum and T. schoenleinii; and (iii) T. mentagrophytes, T. interdigitale, and related species. The major lineages could be further divided into 18 phylogroups, representing either individual species or phylogenetically distinct groups within species. Among strains of T. benhamiae, African isolates American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) 28064 and 28065 formed a phylogenetically distinct phylogroup from their type strain and were considered a distinct species. Strains of T. mentagrophytes were divided into at least four phylogroups based on combined sequence analysis, but some phylogroups showed closer relationships to T. interdigitale, T. equinum, and T. tonsurans when compared by individual genes. This indicates that identifying those species with one gene could lead to incorrect results. For rapid identification of those dermatophytes, each phylogroup was tested by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry using a database with customized reference spectra of each phylogroup. This system was able to identify all the tested strains to species level with higher than 91% accuracy, except for strains of T. interdigitale. The three phylogroups of T. benhamiae were well distinguished from one another with high identification accuracy, whereas phylogroups of T. mentagrophytes were often cross-identified to one another or to T. interdigitale. Further research should improve identification accuracy for some species, but the results suggested that MALDI-TOF MS could be a rapid and efficient identification tool for closely related dermatophytes in the T. mentagrophytes species complex.