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Mycorrhiza. 2007 Dec;18(1):15-22. Epub 2007 Aug 21.

Intra-specific and intra-sporocarp ITS variation of ectomycorrhizal fungi as assessed by rDNA sequencing of sporocarps and pooled ectomycorrhizal roots from a Quercus woodland.

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  • 1Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the Farlow Herbarium, Harvard University, 20 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA.


The Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) regions of ribosomal DNA are widely used as markers for phylogenetic analyses and environmental sampling from a variety of organisms including fungi, plants, and animals. In theory, concerted evolution homogenizes multicopy genes so that little or no variation exists within populations or individuals. However, contrary to theory, ITS variation has been confirmed in populations and individuals from a diverse range of eukaryotes. The presence of intraspecific and intra-individual variation in multicopy genes has important implications for ecological and phylogenetic studies, yet relatively little is known about natural variation of these genes, particularly at the community level. In this study, we examined intraspecific and intra-sporocarp ITS variation by DNA sequencing from sporocarps and pooled roots from 68 species of ectomycorrhizal fungi collected at a single site in a Quercus woodland. We detected ITS variation in 27 species, roughly 40% of the taxa examined. Although intraspecific ITS variation was generally low (0.16-2.85%, mean = 0.74%), it was widespread within this fungal community. We detected ITS variation in both sporocarps and ectomycorrhizal roots, and variation was present within species of Ascomycota and Basidiomycota, two distantly related lineages within the Fungi. We discuss the implications of such widespread ITS variability with special reference to DNA-based environmental sampling from diverse fungal communities.

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