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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #371696

Research Project: Enhancing Plant Protection through Fungal Systematics

Location: Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory

Title: Characterization of mating type genes in heterothallic Neonectria species with emphasis on N. coccinea, N. ditissima and N. faginata

item STAUDER, CAMERON - West Virginia University
item GARNAS, JEFF - University Of New Hampshire
item MORRISON, ERIC - University Of New Hampshire
item Salgado-Salazar, Catalina
item KASSON, MATT - West Virginia University

Submitted to: Mycologia
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2020
Publication Date: 9/24/2020
Citation: Stauder, C.M., Garnas, J.R., Morrison, E.W., Salgado-Salazar, C., Kasson, M.T. 2020. Characterization of mating type genes in heterothallic Neonectria species with emphasis on N. coccinea, N. ditissima and N. faginata. Mycologia. 112(5):880-894.

Interpretive Summary: Beech bark disease (BBD) is a canker disease caused by the interaction of scale insects and fungi (Neonectria coccinea and N. faginata) that has significantly impacted the health of American and European beech trees throughout North America and Europe. Despite the importance of this disease, little is known about the mode of reproduction of these fungal pathogens. In this study, genome sequences were used to characterize the mating type genes. This information is important for understanding the disease epidemiology and developing successful management practices. Plant pathologists, quarantine officials and other scientists will be able to use the DNA sequences and information generated in this study to develop better strategies for the control, detection and identification of this important plant pathogen.

Technical Abstract: Neonectria ditissima and N. faginata are canker pathogens involved in an insect-fungus disease complex of American beech (Fagus grandifolia) commonly known as beech bark disease (BBD). In Europe, both N. ditissima and N. coccinea are involved in BBD on European beech (Fagus sylvatica). Field observations across the range of BBD indicate that new infections occur primarily via ascospores. Both heterothallic (self-sterile) and homothallic (self-fertile) mating strategies have been reported for Neonectria fungi. As such, investigations into mating strategy are important for understanding both the disease cycle and population genetics of Neonectria. This is particularly important in the U.S. given that over time N. faginata dominates the BBD pathosystem despite high densities of non-beech hosts for N. ditissima. This study utilized whole-genome sequences of BBD-associated Neonectria spp. along with other publicly available Neonectria and Corinectria genomes and in vitro mating assays to characterize mating type (MAT) loci and confirm thallism for select members of Neonectria and Corinectria. MAT gene-specific primer pairs were developed to efficiently characterize the mating types of additional single ascospore strains of N. ditissima, N. faginata, and N. coccinea and several other related species lacking genomic data. In vitro mating assays were used in combination with molecular results to confirm thallism. These assays also comfirmed the sexual compatibility among N. ditissima strains from different plant hosts. Maximum likelihood phylogenetic analysis of both MAT1-1-1 and MAT1-2-1 sequences recovered trees with similar topology to previously published phylogenies of Neonectria and Corinectria. The results of this study indicate that all Neonectria and Corinectria tested are heterothallic based on our limited sampling and, as such, thallism cannot help explain the inevitable dominance of N. faginata in the BBD pathosystem.