Obligate biotrophic pathogens of the genus Albugo are widespread as asymptomatic endophytes in natural populations of Brassicaceae

Authors

  • SEBASTIAN PLOCH,

    1. Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, D-60325 Frankfurt (Main), Germany
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  • MARCO THINES

    1. Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, D-60325 Frankfurt (Main), Germany
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Goethe University, Siesmayerstr. 70, D-60323 Frankfurt (Main), Germany
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Marco Thines, Fax: +49 69 75421800; E-mail: marco.thines@senckenberg.de

Abstract

Mutualistic interactions of plants with true fungi are a well-known and widespread phenomenon, which includes mycorrhiza and non-mycorrhizal endophytes like species of Epichloë. Despite the fact that these organisms intrude into plants, neither strong defence reactions nor the onset of symptoms of disease can be observed in most or even all infested plants, in contrast to endophytic pathogens. Oomycetes are fungal-like organisms belonging to the kingdom Straminipila, which includes diatoms and seaweeds. Although having evolved many convergent traits with true fungi and occupying similar evolutionary niches, widespread oomycete endophytes are not known to date, although more than 500 endophytic pathogens, including species of the obligate biotrophic genus Albugo, have been described. Here, we report that oomycetes of the genus Albugo are widespread in siliques of natural host populations. A total of 759 plants, encompassing four genera with rare reports of white blister incidents and one with common incidents, were collected from 25 sites in Germany. Nested PCR with species-specific primers revealed that 5–27% of the hosts with rare disease incidence carried asymptomatic Albugo in their siliques, although only on a single plant of 583 individuals, an isolated pustule on a single leaf could be observed. Control experiments confirmed that these results were not because of attached spores, but because of endophytic mycelium. Vertical inheritance of oomycete infections has been reported for several plant pathogens, and it seems likely that in nature this way of transmission plays an important role in the persistence of asymptomatic endophytic Albugo species.

Ancillary