Verticillium dahliae infection of strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) is a major cause of disease-induced wilting in soil-grown strawberries across the world. To understand what components of the pathogen are affecting disease expression, the presence of the known effector VdAve1 was screened in a sample of Verticillium dahliae isolates. Isolates from strawberry were found to contain VdAve1 and were divided into two major clades, based upon their vegetative compatibility groups (VCG); no UK strawberry isolates contained VdAve1. VC clade was strongly related to their virulence levels. VdAve1-containing isolates pathogenic on strawberry were found in both clades, in contrast to some recently published findings. On strawberry, VdAve1-containing isolates had significantly higher virulence during early infection, which diminished in significance as the infection progressed. Transformation of a virulent non-VdAve1 containing isolate, with VdAve1 was found neither to increase nor decrease virulence when inoculated on a susceptible strawberry cultivar. There are therefore virulence factors that are epistatic to VdAve1 and potentially multiple independent routes to high virulence on strawberry in V. dahliae lineages. Genome sequencing a subset of isolates across the two VCGs revealed that isolates were differentiated at the whole genome level and contained multiple changes in putative effector content, indicating that different clonal VCGs may have evolved different strategies for infecting strawberry, leading to different virulence levels in pathogenicity tests. It is therefore important to consider both clonal lineage and effector complement as the adaptive potential of each lineage will differ, even if they contain the same race determining effector.
Journal: PloS one