Variation in host specificity and gene content in strains from genetically isolated lineages of the ectomycorrhizal fungus Paxillus involutus s. lat.
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Ectomycorrhizal fungi are known to vary in host range. Some fungi can enter into symbiosis with multiple plant species, while others have restricted host ranges. The aim of this study was to examine variation in host specificity among strains from the basidiomycete Paxillus involutus s. lat. Recent studies have shown that this fungus consists of at least four genetically isolated lineages, phylogenetic species (PS) I (which corresponds to the morphological species Paxillus obscurosporus), PS II (P. involutus s. str.), PS III (Paxillus validus), and PS IV (not yet supported by any reference material). Thirty-five Paxillus strains of PS I to IV were examined in microcosms for their capacity to infect birch (Betula pendula) and spruce (Picea abies). Seventeen strains were compatible and formed mycorrhizae with both tree species. Seven strains were incompatible with both birch and spruce. The gene content in three pairs of incompatible and compatible strains PS I, II, and III were compared using microarray-based comparative genomic hybridizations. Of 4,113 P. involutus gene representatives analyzed, 390 varied in copy numbers in at least one of the three pairwise comparisons. Only three reporters showed significant changes in all three pairwise comparisons, and none of these were changed in a similar way in three comparisons. Our data indicate that changes in host range have occurred frequently and independently among strains in P. obscurosporus, P. involutus s. str., and P. validus. No evidence was obtained demonstrating that these changes have been associated with the gain or loss of similar genes in these three species.