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The dikaryon is a nuclear feature which is unique to some fungi (the alga Derbesia is an exception[1]). Compatible cell-types can fuse cytoplasms (plasmogamy). When this occurs, the two nuclei of two cells pair off and cohabit without fusing (karyogamy). This can be maintained for all the cells of the hyphae by synchronously dividing so that pairs are passed to newer cells. In the Ascomycota this attribute is most often found in the ascogenous hyphae and ascocarp while the bulk of the mycelia remains monokaryotic. In the Basidiomycota this is the dominate phase with most Basidiomycota monokaryons weakly growing and short-lived.

The formation of a dikaryon is a plesiomorphic character for the subkingdom Dikarya, which covers both the Basidiomycota and Ascomycota. The formation of croziers in the Ascomycota and of clamp connections in the Basidiomycota facilitate maintenance of the dikaryons. However, some fungi in each of these phyla have evolved other methods for maintaining the dikaryons, and therefore neither croziers nor clamp connections are ubiquitous in either phylum.


The name dikaryon comes from the Greek words δι (di) meaning "two" and καρυόν (karyon) meaning "nut", referring to the cell nucleus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ van den Hoek, C., D.G. Mann, and H.M. Jahns 1995. Algae: an introduction to phycology, p. 430. Cambridge University Press (623 pp).

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