Mating type genes in the genus Neofusicoccum: Mating strategies and usefulness in species delimitation.

Abstract

The genus Neofusicoccum includes species with wide geographical and plant host distribution, some of them of economic importance. The genus currently comprises 27 species that are difficult to identify based on morphological features alone. Thus, species differentiation is based on phylogenetic species recognition using multigene genealogies. In this study, we characterised the mating type genes of Neofusicoccum species. Specific primers were designed to amplify and sequence MAT genes in several species and a PCR-based mating type diagnostic assay was developed. Homothallism was the predominant mating strategy among the species tested. Furthermore, the potential of mating type gene sequences for species delimitation was evaluated. Phylogenetic analyses were performed on both MAT genes and compared with multigene genealogies using sequences of the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer region, translation elongation factor 1-alpha and beta-tubulin. Phylogenies based on mating type genes could discriminate between the species analysed and are in concordance with the results obtained with the more conventional multilocus phylogenetic analysis approach. Thus, MAT genes represent a powerful tool to delimit cryptic species in the genus Neofusicoccum.

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