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Summary

The overall aim of this study was to develop a new, reliable and rapid diagnostic assay for differentiating six European Armillaria species based on variation in their elongation factor-1 alpha (EF-1 α) gene sequences and to verify a set of species-specific primers on 61 Armillaria isolates from Europe. Partial sequences of the EF-1 α gene obtained in Armillaria borealis, Armillaria cepistipes, Armillaria gallica, Armillaria mellea, Armillaria ostoyae and Armillaria tabescens revealed sufficient interspecific variation to distinguish among species using nested primers. These primers gave unambiguous bands when tested on representative isolates of five of these species. However, the EF-1 α sequences of European A. borealis isolates clustered into two distinct clades, termed here AbX and AbY. Specific primers were subsequently designed and tested successfully on both AbX-type and AbY-type A. borealis isolates. The taxonomy of A. borealis needs to be elucidated to determine whether a new, as yet unnamed Armillaria taxon exists in Europe. Three A. borealis isolates were also found to have heterozygous sites in their EF-1 α sequences, which suggests that the gene could exist in more than one copy or that these isolates contain hybrid sequences. A pyrosequencing method was also developed, targeting a small region of EF-1 α intron 4, which was able to differentiate European Armillaria isolates to the species level and additionally could distinguish AbX-type and AbY-type A. borealis isolates.