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Keywords:

  • allele-specific real-time PCR;
  • cytochrome b;
  • Erysiphe graminis;
  • fungicide resistance;
  • mitochondria;
  • strobilurin fungicides

Strobilurin-resistant isolates of Blumeria (Erysiphe) graminis f.sp. tritici, the cause of wheat powdery mildew, were more than 10-fold less sensitive to azoxystrobin than sensitive isolates. In all resistant isolates, a mutation resulting in the replacement of a glycine by an alanine residue at codon 143 (G143A) in the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene was found. Allele-specific primers were designed to detect this point mutation in infected wheat leaves. Using quantitative fluorescent allele-specific real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) measurements, strobilurin-resistant A143 alleles could be detected amongst strobilurin-sensitive G143 alleles at a frequency of at least 1 in 10 000, depending on the amount of target and nontarget DNA. Most isolates tested were dominant homoplasmic for either the A143 or G143 allele, although mixed populations of alleles could be detected in some isolates. In some of these isolates, strobilurin resistance was not always stable when they were maintained for many generations in the absence of selection. The allele-specific real-time PCR assay was also used to follow the dynamics of A143 alleles in field populations of B. graminis f.sp. tritici before and after application of fungicides. As expected, the A143 allele frequency only increased under selection pressure from a strobilurin fungicide. After three sprays of azoxystrobin, a pronounced selection for the strobilurin-resistant allele, with an increase in average frequency from 2·2 to 58%, was measured. The use of quantitative real-time PCR diagnostics for early detection of fungicide resistance genes at low frequency, coupled with risk evaluation, will be invaluable for further resistance risk assessment and validation of antiresistance strategies.