Leptosphaeria maculans is the most ubiquitous pathogen of Brassica crops, and mainly oilseed brassicas (oilseed rape, canola), causing the devastating ‘stem canker’ or ‘blackleg’. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the pathogen, from taxonomic issues to specific life traits. It mainly illustrates the importance of formal genetics approaches on the pathogen side to dissect the interaction with the host plants. In addition, this review presents the main current research topics on L. maculans and focuses on the L. maculans genome initiative recently begun, including its main research issues.

Taxonomy: Leptosphaeria maculans (Desm.) Ces. & de Not. (anamorph Phoma lingam Tode ex Fr.). Kingdom Fungi, Phylum Ascomycota, Class Dothideomycetes (Loculoascomycetes), Order Pleosporales, Genus Leptosphaeria, Species maculans.

Host range:  cultivated Brassicas such as Brassica napus (oilseed rape, canola), B. rapa, B. juncea, B. oleracea, etc., along with numerous wild crucifers species. Arabidopsis thaliana was recently reported to be a potential host for L. maculans. Primary disease symptoms are greyish-green collapse of cotyledon or leaf tissue, without a visible margin, bearing tiny black spots (pycnidia). The fungus then develops an endophytic symptomless growth for many months. Secondary symptoms, at the end of the growing season, are dry necroses of the crown tissues with occasional blackening (stem canker or blackleg) causing lodging of the plants. Pseudothecia differentiate on leftover residues. Seedling damping-off and premature ripening are also reported under certain environmental conditions.

Useful websites: Leptosphaeria maculans sequencing project at Genoscope:; the SECURE site: the ‘Blackleg’ group at the University of Melbourne: