Existence of divergent lineages, virulence phenotypes and DNA methylation in the Canadian Puccinia striiformis population
Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst), the cause of wheat stripe rust, is one of the most important pathogens of wheat. Attempts have been made in the past to characterize the worldwide genetic structure of Pst populations, excluding Canada. Characterization of 59 isolates identified 33 races with three most common races representing half of the population and subtle differences in races of eastern and western prairies. For molecular characterization, 48 isolates were sequenced to obtain SNPs and genotyped with Pst-specific SSR markers. Isolates that were suspected of recombination based on SNP data were examined for their telia production ability as a proxy for sexual recombination. The study revealed that the majority of the population was clonal, however, not exclusively clonal, with the existence of four genetic lineages. Two lineages previously reported were identified: PstS0, representing an old northwestern-European and PstS1, an invasive warmer-temperature adapted lineage. Additionally, two new lineages, PstPr and PstS1-related, were detected that have not been reported previously. The PstPr and PstS1-related lineages produced more telia than the other lineages and had double the number of unique recombination events compared to PstS0 and PstS1. PstPr was concluded to be a sexual recombinant and an exotic incursion, which was closely associated with PstS5, PstS7 (Warrior), and PstS8 (Kranich) lineages, all of which arose by sexual recombination in the center of diversity - the Himalayan region. The total phenotypic variation in the population could not be explained solely by molecular genotypes, and a hypothesis on existence of epigenetic machinery in the Pst genome was tested. Homologs of the DNMTases class (DNMT1) were identified, providing compelling evidence of a role for DNA methylation. As a first report of DNA methylation, an average of ~5%, 5-methyl cytosine (5-hmC) in the Puccinia epigenome indicated the possibility of epigenetic regulation, which merits further investigation.