Genetic variation in native populations of the laurel wilt pathogen, Raffaelea lauricola , in Taiwan and Japan and the introduced population in the United States
Laurel wilt is a vascular wilt disease caused by Raffaelea lauricola, a mycangial symbiont of an ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus. The fungus and vector are native to Asia but were apparently introduced to the Savannah, GA, area 15 or more years ago. Laurel wilt has caused widespread mortality on redbay (Persea borbonia) and other members of the Lauraceae in the southeastern United States, and the pathogen and vector have spread as far as Texas. Although believed to be a single introduction, there has been no extensive study on genetic variation of R. lauricola populations that would suggest a genetic bottleneck in the United States. Ten isolates of R. lauricola from Japan, 55 from Taiwan, and 125 from the United States were analyzed with microsatellite and 28S rDNA markers,and with primers developed for two mating-type genes. The new primers
identified isolates as either MAT1 or MAT2 mating types in roughly equal proportions in Taiwan and Japan, where there was also high genetic diversity within populations based on all the markers, suggesting that these populations may have cryptic sex. Aside from a local population near Savannah and a single isolate in Alabama that had unique microsatellite alleles, the U.S. population was genetically uniform and included only the MAT2 mating type, supporting the single introduction hypothesis. This study suggests the importance of preventing a second introduction of R. lauricola to the United States, which could introduce the opposite mating type and allow for genetic recombination.