Phytophthora cinnamomi isolates from geographically diverse oak forest soils in the Mid-Atlantic regions were studied to determine the extent of genotypic, phenotypic, and pathogenic variation. Four microsatellite loci were targeted for genetic analysis. Phenotypic characteristics measured included sexual and asexual spore dimensions and colony growth rate and morphology. Red oak (Quercus rubra) logs were inoculated with selected isolates to determine relative pathogenicity. Microsatellite analysis showed that the genetic variability of P. cinnamomi isolates was low, with two predominant microsatellite fingerprint groups (MFG). Isolates in MFG1 (48% of the total isolates examined) were characterized by DNA fragment lengths of 120 and 122 bp at locus d39, 169 and 170 bp at locus e16, and 254 and 255 bp at locus g13. MFG2 isolates were characterized by marker sizes of 122 and 124 bp at locus d39, 161 and 163 bp at locus e16, and 247 and 248 bp at locus g13. Asexual and sexual spore dimensions varied greatly among isolates but were similar to previously published descriptions. Phenotypic differences were most pronounced when data were grouped by MFG; the most significant were colony morphology and growth rate. Neither characteristic was a reliable predictor of isolate genotype. Differences in growth rates of MFGs were observed, with MFG1 being less tolerant at higher incubation temperatures. No variation in pathogenicity was observed on red oak logs. The low level of phenotypic and genotypic variation of P. cinnamomi suggest that other factors such as climate might play a more important role in its northern distribution and the diseases it causes.
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