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Gel electrophoresis was used to examine the variation in isozymes and dsRNA within and between the rust species Puccinia striiformis, P. recondita and P. hordei. No differences in isozyme phenotype were found among 29 diverse isolates of the wheat-attacking form of P. striiformis (WYR). Smaller numbers of isolates of the barley-attacking form (BYR) of P. recondita and of P. hordei showed similar intra-group uniformity. There were major differences in isozyme phenotypes between the three species, while WYR and BYR differed for two of 12 enzymes. Double-stranded RNA was detected in each species and in all 26 isolates examined. For WYR and BYR, all isolates within each group had the same or a similar phenotype. In contrast, each isolate of P. recondita and P. hordei had a unique phenotype. There were differences in dsRNA phenotypes both between the three species and between WYR and BYR.

The uniformity of these rust populations and species for isozyme phenotype is contrasted with their variability in pathogenicity and with the variability in isozymes encountered in higher organisms. Uniformity may result from a feature of the biology of the rust species and populations examined, or from the relative homogeneity of the environment of biotrophic pathogens. Consistent differences in isozyme and dsRNA phenotype between the WYR and BYR isolates of P. striiformis indicate that these are two discrete populations, supporting the view that they should be recognized as f.sp. tritici and f.sp. hordei, respectively.