High frequency of fungicide resistance-associated mutations in the wheat yellow rust pathogen Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici

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BACKGROUNDReliance on fungicides to manage disease creates selection pressure for the evolution of resistance in fungal and oomycete pathogens. Rust fungi (Pucciniales) are major pathogens of cereals and other crops and have been classified as low-risk for developing resistance to fungicides; no cases of field failure of fungicides in a cereal rust disease has yet been recorded. Recently, the Asian soybean rust pathogen, Phakopsora pachyrhizi evolved resistance to several fungicide classes, prompting us to screen a large sample of the globally widespread wheat yellow rust pathogen, Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst), for mutations associated with fungicide resistance.RESULTSWe evaluated 363 Pst isolates from Europe, USA, Ethiopia, Chile, China and New Zealand for mutations in the target genes of demethylase inhibitor (DMI; Cyp51) and succinate dehydrogenase inhibitor (SDHI; SdhB, SdhC and SdhD) fungicides. A high proportion of Pst isolates carrying a Y134F DMI resistance-associated substitution in the Cyp51 gene was found among those from China and New Zealand. A set of geographically diverse Pst isolates were also found to display a substitution in SdhC (I85V) that is homologous to that reported recently in P. pachyrhizi and linked to SDHI resistance.CONCLUSIONThe identification of resistance-associated alleles confirms that cereal rusts are not immune to fungicide resistance and that selection for resistance evolution is operating at high levels in certain locations. It highlights the need to adopt fungicide resistance management practices and to monitor cereal rust species for development of resistance.