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Mycol Res. 2007 Mar;111(Pt 3):324-31. Epub 2007 Jan 26.

Detection and quantification of Entomophaga maimaiga resting spores in forest soil using real-time PCR.

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Department of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-2601, USA.


Environmental sampling to monitor entomopathogen titre in forest soil, a known reservoir of insect pathogens such as fungi and viruses, is important in the evaluation of conditions that could trigger epizootics and in the development of strategies for insect pest management. Molecular or PCR-based analysis of environmental samples provides a sensitive method for strain- or species-based detection, and real-time PCR, in particular, allows quantification of the organism of interest. In this study we developed a DNA extraction method and a real-time PCR assay for detection and quantification of Entomophaga maimaiga (Zygomycetes: Entomophthorales), a fungal pathogen of the gypsy moth, in the organic layer of forest soil. DNA from fungal resting spores (azygospores) in soil was extracted using a detergent and bead mill homogenization treatment followed by purification of the crude DNA extract using Sephadex-polyvinylpolypyrrolidone microcolumns. The purification step eliminated most of the environmental contaminants commonly co-extracted with genomic DNA from soil samples but detection assays still required the addition of bovine serum albumin to relieve PCR inhibition. The real-time PCR assay used primers and probe based on sequence analysis of the nuclear ribosomal ITS region of several E. maimaiga and two E. aulicae strains. Comparison of threshold cycle values from different soil samples spiked with E. maimaiga DNA showed that soil background DNA and remaining co-extracted contaminants are critical factors determining detection sensitivity. Based on our results from comparisons of resting spore titres among different forest soils, estimates were best for organic soils with comparatively high densities of resting spores.

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