Genome-assisted development of nuclear intergenic sequence markers for entomopathogenic fungi of the Metarhizium anisopliae species complex


Correspondence: Stephen A. Rehner, Fax: 301-504-5062;E-mail: Stephen.Rehner@ARS.USDA.GOV


Entomopathogenic fungi in the genus Metarhizium are useful for biological control programmes against economically important arthropod pests worldwide. However, understanding the true diversity and ecology of these organisms is hampered by convergent morphologies between species. The application of molecular techniques has enabled greater resolution of species than allowed by morphology alone. In particular, the commonly used biocontrol agent M. anisopliae was found to be a species complex composed of nine species. This prior work was conducted with commonly used markers in fungal phylogenetics (BTUB, RPB1, RPB2 and TEF), which likely under-represent diversity in the M. anisopliae complex. Using sequence data from nuclear genomes of M. acridum and M. robertsii we identified regions of conserved gene synteny and developed primers to amplify intergenic regions of seven loci. Using ex-type and authenticated tissue specimens for species in the M. anisopliae complex, we demonstrate that sequence data derived from intergenic loci is more variable and phylogenetically informative than previously available markers. These new markers will facilitate investigations at or below the species level for the M. anisopliae complex. The method of marker development employed here should be extendable to any group with sufficiently divergent genome data available.