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Keywords:

  • Ceratobasidium;
  • mycorrhiza;
  • Orchidaceae;
  • Rhizoctonia;
  • ribosomal ITS sequence;
  • Thanatephorus;
  • Tomentella;
  • Tulasnella

Summary

  • • 
    Despite advances owing to molecular approaches, several hurdles still obstruct the identification of fungi forming orchid mycorrhizas. The Tulasnellaceae exhibit accelerated evolution of the nuclear ribosomal operon, causing most standard primers to fail in polymerase chain reaction (PCR) trials. Insufficient sequences are available from well characterized isolates and fruitbodies. Lastly, taxon-specific PCR primers are needed in order to explore the ecology of the fungi outside of the orchid root. Here, progress in overcoming these hurdles is reported.
  • • 
    Broad-spectrum basidiomycete internal transcribed spacer (ITS) primers that do not exclude most known Tulasnellaceae are presented. blast searches and empirical PCR tests support their wide utility within the Basidiomycota.
  • • 
    Taxon-specific ITS primers are presented targeted to orchid-associated Tulasnella, and a core component of the ThelephoraTomentella complex. The efficiency and selectivity of these primer sets are again supported by blast searches and empirical tests.
  • • 
    Lastly, ITS DNA sequences are presented from several strains of Epulorhiza, Ceratorhiza, Ceratobasidium, Sistotrema, Thanatephorus and Tulasnella that were originally described in the landmark mycorrhizal studies of Currah and Warcup. Detailed phylogenetic analyses reveal some inconsistencies in species concepts in these taxonomically challenging resupinate basidiomycetes, but also help to place several sequences from environmental samples.