Pycnidial fungi belonging to the genus Ampelomyces are common intracellular mycoparasites of powdery mildews worldwide. Some strains have already been developed as commercial biocontrol agents (BCAs) of Erysiphe necator and other powdery mildew species infecting important crops. One of the basic, and still debated, questions concerning the tritrophic relationships between host plants, powdery mildew fungi, and Ampelomyces mycoparasites is whether Ampelomyces strains isolated from certain species of the Erysiphales are narrowly specialized to their original mycohosts or are generalist mycoparasites of many powdery mildew fungi. This is also important for the use of Ampelomyces strains as BCAs. To understand this relationship, the nuclear ribosomal DNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and partial actin gene (act1) sequences of 55 Ampelomyces strains from E. necator were analyzed together with those of 47 strains isolated from other powdery mildew species. These phylogenetic analyses distinguished five major clades and strains from E. necator that were present in all but one clade. This work was supple- mented with the selection of nine inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers for strain-specific identification of Ampelomyces mycoparasites to monitor the environmental fate of strains applied as BCAs. The genetic distances among strains calculated based on ISSR patterns have also highlighted the genetic diversity of Ampelomyces mycoparasites naturally occurring in grapevine powdery mildew. Overall, this work showed that Ampelomyces strains isolated from E. necator are genetically diverse and there is no indication of strict mycohost associations in these strains. However, these results cannot rule out a certain degree of quantitative association between at least some of the Ampelomyces lineages identified in this work and their original mycohosts.
- plant pathogen interaction