Asian origin and rapid global spread of the destructive dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans.
The dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans (Basidiomycota) is the most damaging destroyer of wood construction materials in temperate regions. While being a widespread aggressive indoor biodeterioration agent, it is only found in a few natural environments. The geographical source of spread and colonization by this fungus in human environments is thus somewhat of an enigma. Employing genetic markers (amplified fragment length polymorphisms, DNA sequences and microsatellites) on a worldwide sample of specimens, we show that the dry rot fungus is divided into two main lineages; one nonaggressive residing naturally in North America and Asia (var. shastensis), and another aggressive lineage including specimens from all continents, both from natural environments and buildings (var. lacrymans). Our genetic analyses indicate that the two lineages represent well-differentiated cryptic species. Genetic analyses pinpoint mainland Asia as the origin of the aggressive form var. lacrymans. A few aggressive genotypes have migrated worldwide from Asia to Europe, North and South America and Oceania followed by local population expansions. The very low genetic variation in the founder populations indicate that they have established through recent founder events, for example by infected wood materials transported over land or sea. A separate colonization has happened from mainland Asia to Japan. Our data also indicate that independent immigration events have happened to Oceania from different continents followed by admixture.