Understanding Fungal Diversity and Behavior in Southern Corn Rust

Greg Howard
4th July, 2024

Understanding Fungal Diversity and Behavior in Southern Corn Rust

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Purdue University studied Sphaerellopsis fungi to explore their potential as biological control agents against rust fungi
  • They screened 5,621 rust specimens and found 199 infected with Sphaerellopsis, identifying five species, including a new one named Sphaerellopsis melampsorinearum
  • Sphaerellopsis species were found to be widespread and not limited to specific rust fungi, with some species showing regional preferences
  • The study confirmed that Sphaerellopsis macroconidialis can parasitize rust fungi, suggesting its potential effectiveness as a biological control agent during early rust establishment stages
Sphaerellopsis species are emerging as promising biological control agents (BCA) against rust fungi, which are notorious plant pathogens. Rust fungi, part of the order Pucciniales, are known for their complex lifecycles and significant impact on plant health, particularly in agriculture[2]. Despite their potential, detailed studies on Sphaerellopsis have been limited, hindering their development as effective BCAs. Researchers at Purdue University have conducted a comprehensive study to explore the biogeography, host-specificity, and species diversity of Sphaerellopsis, focusing on their interactions with rust fungi[1]. The study involved screening 5,621 rust specimens from the Arthur Fungarium, representing 99 genera, to identify those infected by Sphaerellopsis. The researchers found 199 rust specimens infected with Sphaerellopsis, covering 122 rust species in 18 genera from 34 countries. Five Sphaerellopsis species were identified, including a new species, Sphaerellopsis melampsorinearum, based on molecular phylogenetic data and morphological features. Sphaerellopsis species were found to be non-host specific and cosmopolitan, meaning they are widespread and not limited to specific rust fungi. However, Sphaerellopsis paraphysata was more common in tropical regions, while Sphaerellopsis hakeae appeared to be restricted to Australia. This finding aligns with previous studies showing the diverse and complex nature of rust fungi and their pathogens[3]. The study also confirmed the mycoparasitic nature of Sphaerellopsis macroconidialis through in-vitro interaction tests with the urediniospores of Puccinia polysora, a type of rust fungus. Shortly after germination, the hyphae of S. macroconidialis began coiling around the germ tubes of P. polysora, eventually causing turgor loss and forming appressorium-like structures on the urediniospores. This suggests that Sphaerellopsis species might be most effective as BCAs during the early stages of rust establishment. This research builds on previous findings regarding the lifecycle and diversification of rust fungi. For instance, earlier studies highlighted the importance of different life stages in the evolution of Pucciniales, particularly the aecial stage[2]. Understanding these interactions at a molecular level can help develop more targeted and effective BCAs. The study's findings have significant implications for agriculture, where rust fungi pose a major threat to crops. By identifying and understanding the behavior of Sphaerellopsis species, researchers can develop new strategies to manage rust diseases more effectively. This could lead to reduced reliance on chemical fungicides, promoting more sustainable agricultural practices. In summary, the research conducted by Purdue University provides valuable insights into the potential of Sphaerellopsis species as biological control agents against rust fungi. By exploring their biogeography, host-specificity, and mycoparasitic interactions, the study lays the groundwork for developing effective BCAs, contributing to more sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

Plant ScienceMycology


Main Study

1) Characterization of the fungal genus Sphaerellopsis associated with rust fungi: species diversity, host-specificity, biogeography, and in-vitro mycoparasitic events of S. macroconidialis on the southern corn rust, Puccinia polysora

Published 3rd July, 2024


Related Studies

2) Deconstructing the evolutionary complexity between rust fungi (Pucciniales) and their plant hosts.


3) A higher-rank classification for rust fungi, with notes on genera.


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