Alternaria spp.: from general saprophyte to specific parasite


  • Bart P. H. J. Thomma

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics (CMPG), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 20, B-3001 Heverlee-Leuven, Belgium
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  • Present address: Laboratory of Phytopathology, Wageningen University, Binnenhaven 5, 6709 PD Wageningen, the Netherlands.



Alternaria species are mainly saprophytic fungi. However, some species have acquired pathogenic capacities collectively causing disease over a broad host range. This review summarizes the knowledge on pathogenic strategies employed by the fungus to plunder the host. Furthermore, strategies employed by potential host plants in order to ward off an attack are discussed.

Taxonomy:Alternaria spp. kingdom Fungi, subkingdom Eumycotera, phylum Fungi Imperfecti (a non-phylogenetic or artificial phylum of fungi without known sexual stages whose members may or may not be related; taxonomy does not reflect relationships), form class Hypomycetes, Form order Moniliales, form family Dematiaceae, genus Alternaria. Some species of Alternaria are the asexual anamorph of the ascomycete Pleospora while others are speculated to be anamorphs of Leptosphaeria.

Host Range: Most Alternaria species are common saprophytes that derive energy as a result of cellulytic activity and are found in a variety of habitats as ubiquitous agents of decay. Some species are plant pathogens that cause a range of economically important diseases like stem cancer, leaf blight or leaf spot on a large variety of crops. Latent infections can occur and result in post-harvest diseases or damping-off in case of infected seed.

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