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Simultaneous One-Tube Quantification of Host and Pathogen DNA with Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction

January 2002 , Volume 92 , Number  1
Pages  112 - 116

L. M. Winton , J. K. Stone , L. S. Watrud , and E. M. Hansen

First, second, and fourth authors: Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331; and third author: United States Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, OR 97333

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Accepted for publication 3 May 2001.

Phaeocryptopus gaeumannii is a widespread foliar parasite of Douglas-fir. Although normally innocuous, the fungus also causes the defoliating disease Swiss needle cast in heavily infected needles. The extent of P. gaeumannii colonization in Douglas-fir foliage was estimated with real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using TaqMan chemistry. In order to derive a normalized expression of colonization, both pathogen and host DNA were simultaneously amplified but individually detected by species-specific primers and TaqMan probes labeled with different fluorescent dyes. Detection of host DNA additionally provided an endogenous reference that served as both an internal positive control and adjusted for variation introduced by sample-to-sample differences in DNA extraction and PCR efficiencies. The genes employed for designing the TaqMan probes and primers were β-tubulin for the pathogen and a LEAFY/FLORICAULA-like gene involved in floral development for the tree host. Both probe/primer sets exhibited high precision and reproducibility over a linear range of 4 orders of magnitude. This eliminated the need to analyze samples in multiple dilutions when comparing lightly with heavily infected needles. Quantification of the fungus within needles was successful as early as 1 month after initial infection. Real-time PCR is the only method currently available to quantify P. gaeumannii colonization early in the first year of the colonization process.

© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society