Multiple genotypes within aecial clusters in Puccinia graminis and Puccinia coronata: improved understanding of the biology of cereal rust fungi

Fungal Biol Biotechnol. 2017 May 3;4:3. doi: 10.1186/s40694-017-0032-3. eCollection 2017.


Background: Cereal rust fungi (Puccinia spp.) are among the most economically important plant pathogens. These fungi have a complex life cycle, including five spore stages and two hosts. They infect one grass host on which they reproduce clonally and cause the cereal rust diseases, while the alternate host is required for sexual reproduction. Although previous studies clearly demonstrate the importance of the alternate host in creating genetic diversity in cereal rust fungi, little is known about the amount of novel genotypes created in each successful completion of a sexual reproduction event.

Results: In this study, single sequence repeat markers were used to study the genotypic diversity within aecial clusters by genotyping individual aecial cups. Two common cereal rusts, Puccinia graminis causing stem rust and Puccinia coronata the causal agent of crown rust were investigated. We showed that under natural conditions, a single aecial cluster usually include several genotypes, either because a single pycnial cluster is fertilized by several different pycniospores, or because aecia within the cluster are derived from more than one fertilized adjoining pycnial cluster, or a combination of both.

Conclusion: Our results imply that although sexual events in cereal rust fungi in most regions of the world are relatively rare, the events that occur may still significantly contribute to the genetic variation within the pathogen populations.

Keywords: Cereal rusts; Crown rust; Life cycle; Stem rust.