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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory » Research » Research Project #422901

Research Project: Systematics and Diagnostics of Emerging and Quarantine-Significant Plant Pathogenic Fungi

Location: Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-22000-279-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 15, 2012
End Date: Apr 14, 2017

1. Identify and describe invasive and emerging plant pathogens, including rust and smut pathogens of quarantine significance; canker and anthracnose pathogens of tree, forage, and oil crops; and fungi associated with potential biofuel crops. 2. Develop robust phylogenetic classification systems for plant-associated fungi to better predict pathogen behavior and to enable development of accurate diagnostic methods for closely related or morphologically similar species. 3. Develop and validate molecular identification and genotyping resources for insect biocontrol fungi Beauveria spp. and Metarhizium.

Fungi in these groups will be collected, cultured and characterized microscopically to screen for taxa of interest and provide provisional identifications. For smut and bunt fungi, initial focus will be on species of Tilletia closely related to dwarf bunt, T. controversa. Species of Ustilago including segregate genera and Urocystis (flag smut) will also be collected and characterized as encountered. Species of Phomopsis and related canker pathogens in the Gnomoniaceae will be the major focus among the canker fungi as well as Neonectria and related nectriaceous fungi. Rust and anthracnose fungi (primarily Colletotrichum) associated with sugarcane, switchgrass, and turf grasses will also be collected and characterized. Fungi useful for controlling plant pests, including Beauveria and Metarhizium, will be characterized using novel markers developed from available genome data. PCR will be performed to amplify ribosomal and protein-coding genes, including ITS, LSU, EF1-alpha, and RNA polymerase gene regions. For determining initial identities and superficial relationships of newly obtained taxa, the ITS regions of the nuclear ribosomal repeat unit will be sequenced, compared with existing data in GenBank, and correlated with morphological data. For determining species relationships across these genera and relationships of genera, the ITS, LSU, tef1-a, ß-tub, and rpb gene regions will be analyzed along with other genes to be determined including the single copy DNA lyase Apn2, Mat1M72F/R for the combined Mat1, intergenic region and 5’ Apn2, and the single copy SOD2 gene. Whole genome DNA sequencing from Colletotrichum isolates will be performed using short read next generation sequencing technology from genomic DNA. Population-level and phylogenomic relationships of anthracnose pathogens of grasses will be determined. Population genetic analyses combining microsatellite, mating type, and SNP data will be used to analyze the genetic structure of Beauveria populations in areas where it has been applied to control plant pests. For population scale analyses, genotypic data will be combined into multilocus haplotypes for each isolate and used to perform population genetic analyses. Coalescent-based analyses may be applied in an interactive manner based on observed population considerations to provide estimates of parameters such as migration, historical population sizes, and to test for evolutionary scenarios that reflect various demographic outcomes. As new pathogens in these groups emerge, species previously unknown to science yet related to known pathogens in these groups will be described, illustrated, and characterized. Taxonomic monographs will be published and made available as online resources as well as PCR-based diagnostic assays for pathogens of agronomic significance.