• Open Access

Population structure of the butternut canker fungus, Ophiognomonia clavigignenti-juglandacearum, in North American forests


  • This Project was funded by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration, and the New Hampshire Agriculture Experiment Station (NHAES).


Kirk D. Broders, Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Hampshire, 46 College Rd., Durham, NH 03824. Tel: +00 603 862-4542; Fax: +00 603 862-3784; E-mail: kirk.broders@unh.edu


The occurrence of multiple introduction events, or sudden emergence from a host jump, of forest pathogens may be an important factor in successful establishment in a novel environment or on a new host; however, few studies have focused on the introduction and emergence of fungal pathogens in forest ecosystems. While Ophiognomonia clavigignenti-juglandacearum (Oc-j), the butternut canker fungus, has caused range-wide mortality of butternut trees in North America since its first observation in 1967, the history of its emergence and spread across the United States and Canada remains unresolved. Using 17 single nucleotide polymorphic loci, we investigated the genetic population structure of 101 isolates of Oc-j from across North America. Clustering analysis revealed that the Oc-j population in North America is made up of three differentiated genetic clusters of isolates, and these genetic clusters were found to have a strong clonal structure. These results, in combination with the geographic distribution of the populations, suggest that Oc-j was introduced or has emerged in North America on more than one occasion, and these clonal lineages have since proliferated across much of the range of butternut. No evidence of genetic recombination was observed in the linkage analysis, and conservation of the distinct genetic clusters in regions where isolates from two or more genetic clusters are present, would indicate a very minimal or non-existent role of sexual recombination in populations of Oc-j in North America.