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Sibling Species of Cercospora Associated with Gray Leaf Spot of Maize

December 1998 , Volume 88 , Number  12
Pages  1,269 - 1,275

Juan Wang , Morris Levy , and Larry D. Dunkle

First and third authors: Crop Production and Pest Control Research, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1155; and second author: Department of Biology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1392

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Accepted for publication 14 August 1998.

Monoconidial isolates of the fungus causing gray leaf spot of maize were obtained from diseased leaves collected throughout the United States and analyzed for genetic variability at 111 amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) loci. Cluster analysis revealed two very distinct groups of Cercospora zeae-maydis isolates. Both groups were found to be relatively uniform internally with an average genetic similarity among isolates of approximately 93 and 94%, respectively. The groups were separated from each other by a genetic distance of approximately 80%, a distance greater than that separating each group from the sorghum pathogen, C. sorghi (67 to 70%). Characteristics and dimensions of conidia and conid-iophores produced on infected plants or nutrient media were unreliable criteria for taxonomic differentiation of isolates composing the two groups of C. zeae-maydis. Nucleotide sequences of 5.8S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) and the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions were identical within each group but different between the two groups and different from C. sorghi. Restriction fragment length polymorphisms generated by digestion of the 5.8S rDNA and ITS regions with TaqI readily distinguished each group and C. sorghi. Isolates in one group were generally distributed throughout maize-producing regions of the United States; isolates in the other group were localized in the eastern third of the country. Both types were present in the same fields at some locations. The genetic distance based on AFLP profiles and different ITS nucleotide sequences between the two morphologically indistinguishable groups indicate that they are sibling species. Although it is unlikely that breeding for resistance to gray leaf spot will be confounded by local or regional variation in the pathogen, a vigilant approach is warranted, because two pathogenic species exist with unknown abilities to evolve new pathotypes.

Additional keywords: genetic variation , population genetics .

The American Phytopathological Society, 1998