Fusarium culmorum is a ubiquitous, soil-borne fungus (ascomycete) causing foot and root rot and Fusarium head blight on cereals. It is responsible for yield and quality losses as well as grain contamination with mycotoxins, which are a potential health hazard. An extremely sensitive mitochondrial-based qPCR assay (FcMito qPCR) for quantification of F. culmorum was developed in this study. To provide specificity, the FcMito assay was successfully validated against 85 F. culmorum strains and 53 isolates of 30 other fungal species. The assay efficiency and sensitivity were evaluated against different F. culmorum strains with various amounts of pure fungal DNA and in the presence of background wheat DNA. The results demonstrated the high efficiency of the assay (97.2⁻106.0%, R²-values > 0.99). It was also shown that, in the presence of background DNA, 0.01 pg of fungal template could be reliably quantified. The FcMito assay was used to quantify F. culmorum DNA using 108 grain samples with different trichothecene levels. A significant positive correlation was found between fungal DNA quantity and the total trichothecene content. The obtained results showed that the sensitivity of the FcMito assay was much higher than the nuclear-based qPCR assay for F. culmorum.
Keywords: Fusarium culmorum; Fusarium head blight (FHB); detection; mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA); qPCR assay; quantification.