Temporal isolation explains host-related genetic differentiation in a group of widespread mycoparasitic fungi


Levente Kiss, Fax: +36 1 4877555; E-mail: lkiss@nki.hu


Understanding the mechanisms responsible for divergence and specialization of pathogens on different hosts is of fundamental importance, especially in the context of the emergence of new diseases via host shifts. Temporal isolation has been reported in a few plants and parasites, but is probably one of the least studied speciation processes. We studied whether temporal isolation could be responsible for the maintenance of genetic differentiation among sympatric populations of Ampelomyces, widespread intracellular mycoparasites of powdery mildew fungi, themselves plant pathogens. The timing of transmission of Ampelomyces depends on the life cycles of the powdery mildew species they parasitize. Internal transcribed spacer sequences and microsatellite markers showed that Ampelomyces populations found in apple powdery mildew (Podosphaera leucotricha) were genetically highly differentiated from other Ampelomyces populations sampled from several other powdery mildew species across Europe, infecting plant hosts other than apple. While P. leucotricha starts its life cycle early in spring, and the main apple powdery mildew epidemics occur before summer, the fungal hosts of the other Ampelomyces cause epidemics mainly in summer and autumn. When two powdery mildew species were experimentally exposed to Ampelomyces strains naturally occurring in P. leucotricha in spring, and to strains naturally present in other mycohost species in autumn, cross-infections always occurred. Thus, the host-related genetic differentiation in Ampelomyces cannot be explained by narrow physiological specialization, because Ampelomyces were able to infect powdery mildew species they were unlikely to have encountered in nature, but instead appears to result from temporal isolation.