Genetic variability in Crinipellis perniciosa, the causal organism of witches' broom disease in Theobroma cacao, was determined in strains originating from T. cacao and other susceptible host species Heteropterys acutifolia and Solanum lycocarpum in Brazil, in order to clarify host specificity and geographical variability. RFLP analysis of the ribosomal DNA ITS regions (rDNA ITS), and the mitochondrial DNA small subunit ribosomal DNA gene (mtDNA SSU rDNA) did not reveal any genetic variability in 120 tested strains, possibly serving only as species level markers. Genetic variability was observed in the ribosomal DNA IGS spacer region, in terms of IGS size, RFLPs and sequence data. Phylogenetic analyses (using CLUSTAL W, PHYLIP and TREEVIEW) indicated considerable differences between C. perniciosa strains from T. cacao and those from H. acutifolia (85–86%) and S. lycocarpum (95–96%). Sequence differences also indicated that C. perniciosa from T. cacao in Bahia is less variable (98%) when compared to the pathogen on T. cacao in Amazonas (97–98%), perhaps reflecting a recent introduction to T. cacao in Bahia.
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