The oomycete Pseudoperonospora cubensis attacks members of the Cucurbitaceae, causing severe foliage damage especially to cucumber and melon. Recently, new pathotypes of this oomycete appeared in Israel (2) and Italy (1) and highly aggressive isolates appeared in the United States (3). Since oospores of P. cubensis were rarely seen and sexual propagation by oospores was never reported (4), it is assumed that it propagates clonally by sporangia. Here we report on sexual reproduction of P. cubensis under controlled conditions in the laboratory. We found that field isolates belonging to the old pathotype 3 or to the new pathotype 6 (2) inoculated singly onto detached leaves of cucurbits in growth chambers at 15 or 20°C produced no oospores, even after prolonged incubation periods. However, when sporangia of some paired field isolates were mixed together at a 1:1 ratio, similarly inoculated onto detached leaves, and incubated at 15 or 20°C, numerous oospores (up to ~300/cm2) were formed in the mesophyll within 6 to 11 days, depending on the isolates pair, the host inoculated, and temperature. Oospores were also formed at 12.5°C but not at 25°C. Oospores developed in intact plants when kept at 15 or 20°C under a humidity-saturated atmosphere during disease development. Oospores were round, light brown to brown with an average diameter of ~40 μm. Oospores were produced in Cucumis sativum (cvs. Nadiojni and Dalila) and Cucumis melo (cvs. Ananas-Yokneam and Ein-Dor) but not in Cucurbita pepo (cv. Arlika, Beiruti), C. moschata (cv. Dalorit), or C. maxima (cv. Tripoli). To verify that oospores are infective, cucumber or melon leaves containing oospores were homogenized in water. The homogenate was twice brought to dryness at 25 to 30°C in petri dishes to differentially kill the vegetative structures of the pathogen (sporangia, cystospores, zoospores, and mycelia), resuspended in water, and inoculated onto detached leaves of various cucurbits in growth chambers at 15 or 20°C. Downy mildew lesions carrying sporangia appeared within 7 to 20 days in leaves of Cucumis sativum, Cucumis melo, and C. moschata but not in C. pepo or C. maxima. The recombinant origin of the F1 offspring isolates was confirmed by mefenoxam sensitivity tests, random amplified polymorphic DNA, and simple sequence repeat analyses. F1 progeny isolates of some crosses lost pathogenicity to C. moschata or C. maxima, toward which one of their parents was pathogenic, while others gained pathogenicity to Luffa cylindrica or Citrullus lanatus toward which neither parent was pathogenic. Data confirmed that isolates of P. cubensis can mate to produce oospores, especially under constant humidity conditions; such oospores are infective to cucurbits and F1 progeny isolates show altered sensitivity to fungicides or altered host range relative to their parents. To our knowledge, this is the first report of oospore formation by P. cubensis in the laboratory and on their pathogenicity to cucurbits. Reasons for the parallel appearance of new pathotypes of P. cubensis in Israel in 2002 (2) and Italy in 2003 (1) and the reemergence of highly aggressive isolates of the pathogen in the United States in 2004 (3) are not known. They may be related to oospore production and sexual recombination in P. cubensis.
References: (1) C. Cappelli et al. Plant Dis. 87:449, 2003. (2) Y. Cohen et al. Phytoparasitica 31:458, 2003. (3) G. J. Holmes et al. Am. Veg. Grower. February, 14-15, 2006. (4) A. Lebeda and Y. Cohen. Eur. J. Plant Pathol.129:157, 2011.