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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 May 11;96(10):5878-83.

Origin of a new Phytophthora pathogen through interspecific hybridization.

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Forestry Authority Research Station, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, Surrey GU10 4LH, United Kingdom.

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  • Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A 1999 Nov 9;96(23):13589.


Plant disease epidemics resulting from introductions of exotic fungal plant pathogens are a well known phenomenon. An associated risk-that accelerated pathogen evolution may be occurring as a consequence of genetic exchange between introduced, or introduced and resident, fungal pathogens-is largely unrecognized. This is, in part, because examples of natural, interspecific hybridization in fungi are very rare. Potential evolutionary developments range from the acquisition of new host specificities to emergence of entirely new pathogen taxa. We present evidence from cytological behavior, additive nucleotide bases in repetitive internal transcribed spacer regions of the rRNA-encoding DNA (rDNA), and amplified fragment length polymorphisms of total DNA that a new, aggressive Phytophthora pathogen of alder trees in Europe comprises a range of heteroploid-interspecific hybrids involving a Phytophthora cambivora-like species and an unknown taxon similar to Phytophthora fragariae. The hybrids' marked developmental instabilities, unusual morphological variability, and evidence for recombination in their internal transcribed spacer profiles indicates that they are of recent origin and that their evolution is continuing. The likelihood of such evolutionary events may be increasing as world trade in plants intensifies. However, routine diagnostic procedures currently in use are insufficiently sensitive to allow their detection.

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