Intraspecies differentiation in the powdery mildew Erysiphe cichoracearum determined with rDNA RFLPs


  • Kurt Zeller is a graduate student whose thesis subject concerns systematic relationships and evolution of host-specificity within Erysiphr cichoracmrum. Morris Levy has primary researchinterests in population biology and the evolution of host-parasite interactions in several plant pathogenic fungi, including Pyncularin and Erysiphr. This paper results from their efforts to apply molecular tools to the understanding of evolution in fungal parasite-plant interactions.

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The powdery mildew species Erysiphe cichoracearum has a described host range of over 300 plant species from among several families. Host-range testing indicates host-specialized subdivision within this taxonomic species. However, the extent of subdivision remains largely undetermined among host-limited forms. We have characterized diversity among field collections of E. cichoracearum from a variety of hosts, and from other powdery mildew species, with RFLPs from a PCR amplified ribosomal DNA (rDNA) segment The E. cichoracearum samples expressed six distinct RFLP haplotypes. Each haplotype was specific to either a single host or to a set of related host species. These haplotypes formed a continuum of divergence ranging from about 18–35% average pairwise distance from one another, while those from other mildew species clustered at consistently higher average pairwise distances from E. cichoracearum and from each other. Our findings support earlier suggestions, based on host-range and morphological characterizations, that E. cichoracearum is a complex of morphologically similar, but host-limited forms. Also, comparisons of rDNA haplotype distance between E. cichoracearum and Blumeria (Erysiphe) graminis were consistently greater than between E. cichoracearum and Sphaerotheca fulginea. This result supports earlier questions concerning the monophyletic nature of Erysiphe.