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PCR-based detection of sunflower white blister rust (Pustula helianthicola C. Rost & Thines) in soil samples and asymptomatic host tissue

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Sequencing of partial cox2 (part of the mitochondrial cytochrome-c-oxydase (COX) gene) was performed with samples from the oomycete genus Pustula, the white blister rusts of Asteraceae and related families. Sequence comparison uncovered several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between P. spinulosa and host specific strains of Pustula isolated from Senecio vulgaris, Tragopogon pratensis and cultivated sunflower, Helianthus annuus. Based on these differences, specific primers were designed for PCR-based detection of white blister rust strains pathogenic to sunflower. The specificity of the primers was confirmed by cross testing with DNA from various oomycetes occurring in the same locality. The limit of detection for DNA of P. helianthicola was 10 pg. This allowed detection with DNA from single sporangia and single oospores. The PCR-based experiments allowed detection of the presence of sunflower white blister rust in soil samples from fields on which infected plants had been cultivated several months before. Moreover, the molecular tools were successfully applied to trace the pathogen in asymptomatic tissue of infected plants, demonstrating the systemic nature of Pustula on sunflower.

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We are indebted to Liliane Benkowitsch for technical assistance in pathogen cultivation and PCR experiments. MT is supported by the research funding programme “LOEWE—Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz” of the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and the Arts of Hesse.

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Correspondence to Otmar Spring.

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Spring, O., Marco, T., Wolf, S. et al. PCR-based detection of sunflower white blister rust (Pustula helianthicola C. Rost & Thines) in soil samples and asymptomatic host tissue. Eur J Plant Pathol 131, 519–527 (2011).

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