Members of the Phialocephala fortinii sensu lato -Acephala applanata species complex (PAC) are the dominant root endophytes of woody plants in temperate and boreal forests. In the present study, the mating type (MAT) idiomorphs of eight species belonging to the PAC were cloned. Because direct cloning of MAT idiomorphs was not possible, species phylogenetically placed between the PAC and other helotialean species with characterized MAT locus were used for an intermediate cloning step. Whereas A. applanata showed a homothallic organization structure of the MAT locus, all other species either contained the MAT1-1 or MAT1-2 idiomorph indicative of heterothallism. A Tc1-like transposable element was found within the MAT locus of A. applanata. Analysis of A. applanata strains collected over a broad geographical range showed that the transposable element was present in all A. applanata strains, suggesting an ancient transposition event. Moreover, a partial MAT1-1-1 gene was identified within MAT1-2 idiomorphs, a common phenomenon in the order Helotiales. However, this partial gene was not fixed in all populations of the species. The evolution of the MAT locus with regard to different mating systems is discussed for the species complex.
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