Population analyses of the vascular plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae detect recombination and transcontinental gene flow
The fungal pathogen Verticillium dahliae has resulted in significant losses in numerous crops in coastal California, but lettuce remained unaffected until the mid-1990s. Since then outbreaks have decimated entire fields, but the causes of this sudden susceptibility of lettuce remain elusive. The population structure of V. dahliae isolated from coastal California (n=123) was investigated with 22 microsatellite markers, and compared with strains from tomato in central California (n=60), spinach seed imported from Washington State and Northern Europe (n=43), and ornamentals from Wisconsin (n=17). No significant differentiation was measured among hosts in coastal California or with the spinach and Wisconsin ornamental sampling groups. In contrast, the tomato sampling group was significantly differentiated. Significant gene flow was measured among the various geographic and host sampling groups, with the exception of tomato. Evidence of recombination in V. dahliae was identified through gametic disequilibrium and an exceedingly high genotypic diversity. The high incidence of V. dahliae in spinach seed and high planting density of the crop are sources of recurrent gene flow into coastal California, and may be associated with the recent outbreaks in lettuce.
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