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Phylogenetic Analysis of Cercospora and Mycosphaerella Based on the Internal Transcribed Spacer Region of Ribosomal DNA

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    Authors and Affiliations
    • Stephen B. Goodwin
    • Larry D. Dunkle
    • Victoria L. Zismann

      Most of the 3,000 named species in the genus Cercospora have no known sexual stage, although a Mycosphaerella teleomorph has been identified for a few. Mycosphaerella is an extremely large and important genus of plant pathogens, with more than 1,800 named species and at least 43 associated anamorph genera. The goal of this research was to perform a large-scale phylogenetic analysis to test hypotheses about the past evolutionary history of Cercospora and Mycosphaerella. Based on the phylogenetic analysis of internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence data (ITS1, 5.8S rRNA gene, ITS2), the genus Mycosphaerella is monophyletic. In contrast, many anamorph genera within Mycosphaerella were polyphyletic and were not useful for grouping species. One exception was Cercospora, which formed a highly supported monophyletic group. Most Cercospora species from cereal crops formed a subgroup within the main Cercospora cluster. Only species within the Cercospora cluster produced the toxin cercosporin, suggesting that the ability to produce this compound had a single evolutionary origin. Intraspecific variation for 25 taxa in the Mycosphaerella clade averaged 1.7 nucleotides (nts) in the ITS region. Thus, isolates with ITS sequences that differ by two or more nucleotides may be distinct species. ITS sequences of groups I and II of the gray leaf spot pathogen Cercospora zeae-maydis differed by 7 nts and clearly represent different species. There were 6.5 nt differences on average between the ITS sequences of the sorghum pathogen Cercospora sorghi and the maize pathogen Cercospora sorghi var. maydis, indicating that the latter is a separate species and not simply a variety of Cercospora sorghi. The large monophyletic Mycosphaerella cluster contained a number of anamorph genera with no known teleomorph associations. Therefore, the number of anamorph genera related to Mycosphaerella may be much larger than suspected previously.