Genetic Differentiation and Host Specificity Among Populations of Alternaria spp. Causing Brown Spot of Grapefruit and Tangerine x Grapefruit Hybrids in Florida

Phytopathology. 2000 Apr;90(4):407-14. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO.2000.90.4.407.

Abstract

ABSTRACT Alternaria spp. were sampled from brown spot lesions in several geographically separated citrus groves and different grapefruit and tangerine x grapefruit hybrid cultivars in Florida and screened for variation at 16 putative random amplified polymorphic DNA loci. Populations of the pathogen on two hybrids, Minneola and Orlando, in five locations throughout Florida were moderately differentiated (Nei's coefficient of gene differentiation [G(ST)] = 0.12) among locations. The hypothesis that host-specialized forms of Alternaria spp. cause brown spot on different Citrus spp. and cultivars was tested by estimating genetic differentiation among isolates sampled from different hosts and by pathogenicity assays. Isolates sampled from grapefruit and the hybrid cv. Nova were genetically distinct from isolates sampled from other hybrid cultivars including Robinson, Sunburst, Minneola, Orlando, and Murcott. No differentiation could be detected among isolates sampled from this latter group of hybrids. Quantitative pathogenicity assays on leaves using spray inoculation revealed that 'Nova' isolates were not significantly more pathogenic on 'Nova' compared with isolates from 'Minneola' and 'Orlando'. Similarly, grapefruit isolates were not significantly more pathogenic on grapefruit compared with isolates from 'Minneola'. Isolates from all hosts had similar disease rankings on each inoculated cultivar, with 'Minneola' the most susceptible, followed in decreasing order of susceptibility by 'Orlando', 'Sunburst', 'Nova', and 'Duncan' grapefruit. Rough lemon was generally immune to all isolates tested; however, occasional brown spot lesions were observed on leaves of this host with isolates from grapefruit. No evidence was found to support the hypothesis that unique genotypes of the pathogen, which are more virulent on 'Sunburst' or grapefruit, have been introduced to Florida. Populations of Alternaria spp. causing brown spot of citrus on grapefruit and 'Nova' in Florida are genetically distinct from isolates on other cultivars, and we speculate that these populations are in the early stages of adaptation to and possible speciation on these hosts.