• adaptation;
  • AFLP;
  • clonal fungus;
  • microsatellite;
  • virulence evolution;
  • wheat;
  • yellow (stripe) rust


Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (PST), a clonal basidiomycete causing yellow rust disease on wheat, has a long record of ‘overcoming’ cultivar resistance introduced by breeders. Despite the long dispersal capacity of its spores, the French population of PST presents a strong geographical structure, with the presence of a specific pathotype (array of avirulence genes) at high frequencies in the south of France. The genetic diversity underlying this differentiation was analysed by microsatellite and AFLP markers. A total of 213 French isolates belonging to 10 pathotypes collected over a 15-year period were investigated. For each of the 12 microsatellites used, polymorphism resulted from a unique allelic variant associated to the south-specific pathotype. This pathotype was characterized by 40 specific markers over the total of 63 polymorphims detected using 15 AFLP primer combinations. Phylogeographical analysis indicated a strictly clonal structure of the population, and a strong genomic divergence between the northern population and a south-specific clone. Both virulence and molecular data show that the northern French population belongs to the northwestern European population, whereas the southern clone is most likely related to a Mediterranean population, the two subpopulations resulting from the ancient divergence of two clonal lineages. While the virulence complexity in the northern population may be explained by the successive introduction of corresponding resistance genes in cultivars, the maintenance of a simple virulence type in southern France, despite gene flow between the two populations, may be explained in terms of host cultivars repartition and local adaptation to specific host or climatic conditions.