Intra- and inter-isolate variation of ribosomal and protein-coding genes in Pleurotus: implications for molecular identification and phylogeny on fungal groups

BMC Microbiol. 2017 Jun 26;17(1):139. doi: 10.1186/s12866-017-1046-y.


Background: The internal transcribed spacer (ITS), RNA polymerase II second largest subunit (RPB2), and elongation factor 1-alpha (EF1α) are often used in fungal taxonomy and phylogenetic analysis. As we know, an ideal molecular marker used in molecular identification and phylogenetic studies is homogeneous within species, and interspecific variation exceeds intraspecific variation. However, during our process of performing ITS, RPB2, and EF1α sequencing on the Pleurotus spp., we found that intra-isolate sequence polymorphism might be present in these genes because direct sequencing of PCR products failed in some isolates. Therefore, we detected intra- and inter-isolate variation of the three genes in Pleurotus by polymerase chain reaction amplification and cloning in this study.

Results: Results showed that intra-isolate variation of ITS was not uncommon but the polymorphic level in each isolate was relatively low in Pleurotus; intra-isolate variations of EF1α and RPB2 sequences were present in an unexpectedly high amount. The polymorphism level differed significantly between ITS, RPB2, and EF1α in the same individual, and the intra-isolate heterogeneity level of each gene varied between isolates within the same species. Intra-isolate and intraspecific variation of ITS in the tested isolates was less than interspecific variation, and intra-isolate and intraspecific variation of RPB2 was probably equal with interspecific divergence. Meanwhile, intra-isolate and intraspecific variation of EF1α could exceed interspecific divergence. These findings suggested that RPB2 and EF1α are not desirable barcoding candidates for Pleurotus. We also discussed the reason why rDNA and protein-coding genes showed variants within a single isolate in Pleurotus, but must be addressed in further research.

Conclusions: Our study demonstrated that intra-isolate variation of ribosomal and protein-coding genes are likely widespread in fungi. This has implications for studies on fungal evolution, taxonomy, phylogenetics, and population genetics. More extensive sampling of these genes and other candidates will be required to ensure reliability as phylogenetic markers and DNA barcodes.

Keywords: Edible mushroom; Intra-isolate polymorphism; Specific variation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA Barcoding, Taxonomic / methods*
  • DNA, Fungal / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer / genetics*
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics*
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1 / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Pleurotus / classification*
  • Pleurotus / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • RNA Polymerase II / genetics*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Ribosomal Proteins / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Fungal
  • DNA, Ribosomal Spacer
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1
  • Ribosomal Proteins
  • RNA Polymerase II