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A novel application of RNase H2-dependent quantitative PCR for detection and quantification of Grosmannia clavigera, a mountain pine beetle fungal symbiont, in environmental samples

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins; MPB) is an economically and ecologically important pest of pine species in western North America. Mountain pine beetles form complex multipartite relationships with microbial partners, including the ophiostomoid fungi Grosmannia clavigera (Robinson-Jeffrey and Davidson) Zipfel, de Beer and Wingfield, Ophiostoma montium (Rumbold) von Arx, Grosmannia aurea (Robinson-Jeffrey and Davidson) Zipfel, de Beer and Wingfield, Leptographium longiclavatum (Lee, Kim, and Breuil) and Leptographium terebrantis (Barras and Perry). These fungi are vectored by MPB to new pine hosts, where the fungi overcome host defenses to grow into the sapwood. A tree’s relative susceptibility to these fungi is conventionally assessed by measuring lesions that develop in response to fungal inoculation. However, these lesions represent a symptom of infection, representing both fungal growth and tree defense capacity. In order to more objectively assess fungal virulence and host tree susceptibility in studies of host–pathogen interactions, a reliable, consistent, sensitive method is required to accurately identify and quantify MPB-associated fungal symbionts in planta. We have adapted RNase H2-dependent PCR, a technique originally designed for rare allele discrimination, to develop a novel RNase H2-dependent quantitative PCR (rh-qPCR) assay that shows greater specificity and sensitivity than previously published PCR-based methods to quantify MPB fungal symbionts in pine xylem and MPB whole beetles. Two sets of assay probes were designed: one that amplifies a broad range of ophiostomoid species, and a second that amplifies G. clavigera but not other MPB-associated ophiostomoid species. Using these primers to quantify G. clavigera in pine stems, we provide evidence that lesion length does not accurately reflect the extent of fungal colonization along the stem nor the quantity of fungal growth within this colonized portion of stem. The sensitivity, specificity, reproducibility, cost effectiveness and high-throughput potential of the rh-qPCR assay makes the technology suitable for identification and quantification of a wide array of pathogenic and beneficial microbes that form associations with plants and other organisms, even when the microbial partner is present in low abundance.

  • Date created
    2018-01-01
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Published)
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-4fr2-3e09
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • McAllister, C.H., Fortier, C.E., St. Onge, K.R., Sacchi, B.M., Nawrot, M.J,, Locke T, Cooke, J.E.K.  2018. A novel application of RNase H2-dependent quantitative PCR for detection and quantification of Grosmannia clavigera, a mountain pine beetle fungal symbiont, in environmental samples. Tree Physiology.  38: 485-501. https://doi.org/10.1093/treephys/tpx147