Virulence factors of epidemically spreading population of the Trichophyton benhamiae clade
White and yellow strains of Trichophyton benhamiae are well known pathogens of pet animals with frequent transmission to humans. Based on the recent data, white phenotype strains form three subgroups which are closely related but separate from yellow phenotype strains. While the incidence of white phenotype strains has remained roughly constant for several decades, yellow strains are currently spreading epidemically through Europe between guinea pigs and their breeders. To answer the question what stands behind its this successful spread, we compared gene expression and spectra of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of epidemic and non-epidemic strains. Gene expression of strains grown in a liquid medium and on ex vivo murine skin explants was studied by sequencing of RNA and by RT-qPCR. Spectra of the produced VOCs were analysed with the GC-MS method. Although taxa in the white phenotype group did not differ significantly in the examined factors, yellow phenotype strains are significantly separated from the others. Expression of genes connected to production of secondary metabolites and stress management increases in yellow epidemical strains at the expense of genes involved in nutrient intake and primary metabolism in general. This supports the initial assumption that epidemical strains developed a different and probably more successful strategy of spreading in hosts. Finally, we propose catalase EasC, protein with fasciclin domain, and VOCs with possible bioactive potential as new putative virulence factors in this study.