Genetic isolation among sympatric vegetative compatibility groups of the aflatoxin-producing fungus Aspergillus flavus

Authors

  • L. C. GRUBISHA,

    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, School of Plant Sciences, The University of Arizona, PO Box 210036, Tucson, AZ 85721-0036, USA
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  • P. J. COTTY

    1. United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, School of Plant Sciences, The University of Arizona, PO Box 210036, Tucson, AZ 85721-0036, USA
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Peter J. Cotty, Fax: +1 520 626 5944; E-mail: pjcotty@email.arizona.edu

Abstract

Aspergillus flavus, a fungal pathogen of animals and both wild and economically important plants, is most recognized for producing aflatoxin, a cancer-causing secondary metabolite that contaminates food and animal feed globally. Aspergillus flavus has two self/nonself recognition systems, a sexual compatibility system and a vegetative incompatibility system, and both play a role in directing gene flow in populations. Aspergillus flavus reproduces clonally in wild and agricultural settings, but whether a cryptic sexual stage exists in nature is currently unknown. We investigated the distribution of genetic variation in 243 samples collected over 4 years from three common vegetative compatibility groups (VCGs) in Arizona and Texas from cotton using 24 microsatellite loci and the mating type locus (MAT) to assess population structure and potential gene flow among A. flavus VCGs in sympatric populations. All isolates within a VCG had the same mating type with OD02 having MAT1-2 and both CG136 and MR17 having MAT1-1. Our results support the hypothesis that these three A. flavus VCGs are genetically isolated. We found high levels of genetic differentiation and no evidence of gene flow between VCGs, including VCGs of opposite mating-type. Our results suggest that these VCGs diverged before domestication of agricultural hosts (>10 000 yr bp).

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