Genetic divergence and chemotype diversity in the fusarium head blight pathogen Fusarium poae

Vanheule, Adriaan; Boevre, Marthe De; Moretti, Antonio; Scauflaire, Jonathan; Munaut, Françoise; Saeger, Sarah De; Bekaert, Boris; Haesaert, Geert; Waalwijk, Cees; Lee, Theo Van Der; Audenaert, Kris


Fusarium head blight is a disease caused by a complex of Fusarium species. F. poae is omnipresent throughout Europe in spite of its low virulence. In this study, we assessed a geographically diverse collection of F. poae isolates for its genetic diversity using AFLP (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism). Furthermore, studying the mating type locus and chromosomal insertions, we identified hallmarks of both sexual recombination and clonal spread of successful genotypes in the population. Despite the large genetic variation found, all F. poae isolates possess the nivalenol chemotype based on Tri7 sequence analysis. Nevertheless, Tri gene clusters showed two layers of genetic variability. Firstly, the Tri1 locus was highly variable with mostly synonymous mutations and mutations in introns pointing to a strong purifying selection pressure. Secondly, in a subset of isolates, the main trichothecene gene cluster was invaded by a transposable element between Tri5 and Tri6. To investigate the impact of these variations on the phenotypic chemotype, mycotoxin production was assessed on artificial medium. Complex blends of type A and type B trichothecenes were produced but neither genetic variability in the Tri genes nor variability in the genome or geography accounted for the divergence in trichothecene production. In view of its complex chemotype, it will be of utmost interest to uncover the role of trichothecenes in virulence, spread and survival of F. poae.