A molecular toolkit for population genetic investigations of the ash dieback pathogen Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus



The recently described ascomycete fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (anamorph: Chalara fraxinea) causes the current dieback of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in large parts of Europe. The origin of this species and its relation to the native cryptic species Hymenoscyphus albidus are still enigmatic. The spatiotemporal pattern of the epidemic is typical for an introduced invasive species. However, the presence of two cryptic species indicates that hybridization or mutation might have been involved in driving speciation in this case. In this study, we present a set of 18 polymorphic microsatellite markers to study these processes in more detail on a population genetic level. Markers were designed such that they can be amplified in three individual multiplex PCRs and analysed in two fragment analysis runs. We thoroughly tested the marker set for pairwise linkage among loci, selective neutrality and Mendelian inheritance. Additionally, the markers were applied on two large collections of isolates derived from study sites in Germany. Population genetic calculations suggested a low yet significant level of differentiation, a large genotypic diversity and a limited genetic diversity within populations. Furthermore, we present additional data concerning the phylogenetic relation between H. albidus and H. pseudoalbidus, which seems to be more distantly related to each other than expected previously.