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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Cereal Disease Lab » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #235969

Title: The Rust Fungi

item Kolmer, James - Jim

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/28/2009
Publication Date: 9/15/2009
Citation: Kolmer, J.A., Ordonez, M.E., Groth, J.V. 2009. The Rust Fungi. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Available:

Interpretive Summary: The rusts are a distinct group of fungi that cause many important plant diseases. Many types of rust fungi have up to five different spore stages in their life cycle. Rust fungi have many important characteristics that allow them to obtain nutrients from plants and cause diseases of important crop plants over large geographic areas.

Technical Abstract: The rust fungi are a monophyletic group of approximately 7,0000 species in the basidiomycota and are highly specialized obligate parasites of plants. The life cycle of rusts can be complex. Some rusts have up to five spore stages that alternate between haploid and dikaryotic nuclear conditions and that can occur on two taxonomically unrelated host plants. The rusts have evolved specialized structures that allow them to penetrate and obtain nutrients from living host cells. Biologic forms of a single rust species may differ in ability to attack different genera of host plants. Furthermore, within a single rust species they can be highly variable in ability to attack different genotypes of one host species. At the species level, genes that condition avirulence/virulence in rusts interact in a specific relationship with rust resistance genes in plants. Many of the most important plant diseases in the world are caused by rust fungi.