Alternaria spp. form a heterogeneous group of saprophytic and plant-pathogenic fungi widespread in temperate and tropical regions. However, the relationship between evolutionary processes and genetic diversity with epidemics is unknown for several plant-pathogenic Alternaria spp. The interaction of Alternaria solani populations with potato and tomato plants is an interesting case study for addressing questions related to molecular evolution of an asexual fungus. Gene genealogies based on the coalescent process were used to infer evolutionary processes that shape the A. solani population. Sequences of the rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region and the genes which encode the allergenic protein alt a 1 (Alt a 1) and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (Gpd) were used to estimate haplotype and nucleotide diversity as well as for the coalescent analyses. The highest number of parsimony informative sites (n = 14), nucleotide diversity (0.007), and the average number of nucleotide differences (3.20) were obtained for Alt a 1. Although the highest number of haplotypes (n = 7) was generated for ITS, haplotype diversity was the lowest (0.148) for this region. Recombination was not detected. Subdivision was inferred from populations associated with hosts but there was no evidence of geographic subdivision, and gene flow is occurring among subpopulations. In the analysis of the Alt a 1, balancing selection and population expansion or purifying selection could have occurred in A. solani subpopulations associated with potato and tomato plants, respectively. There is strong evidence that the subpopulation of A. solani that causes early blight in potato is genetically distinct from the subpopulation that causes early blight in tomato. The population of A. solani is clonal, and gene flow and mutation are the main evolutionary processes shaping its genetic structure.
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