Fungal Genet Biol 2003 Nov;40(2):115-25
Institute of Plant Sciences, Plant Pathology Group, Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Zentrum, LFW, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland.
Rhynchosporium secalis, the causal agent of scald on barley, is thought to be exclusively asexual because no teleomorph has been found. Partial sequences of the HMG-box and alpha-domain of Rhynchosporium secalis isolates were identified and used to develop a PCR assay for the mating-type locus. PCR amplification of only one of these two domains was possible in each strain, suggesting that R. secalis has a MAT organization that is similar to other known heterothallic fungi. A multiplex PCR with primers amplifying either a MAT1-1- or MAT1-2-specific amplicon was used to determine the distribution of mating types in several R. secalis populations. In total, 1101 isolates from Australia, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Scandinavia, California, and South Africa were included in the analysis. Mating types occurred in equal frequencies for most of these populations, suggesting frequency-dependent selection consistent with sexual reproduction. In addition, both mating types were frequently found occupying the same lesion or leaf, providing opportunities for isolates of opposite mating type to interact and reproduce sexually. We propose that R. secalis should be considered a sexual pathogen, although the sexual cycle may occur infrequently in some populations.