In the marine environment, a growing body of evidence points to parasites as key players in the control of population dynamics and overall ecosystem structure. However, their prevalence and impact on marine macroalgal communities remain virtually unknown. Indeed, infectious diseases of seaweeds are largely underdocumented, partly because of the expertise required to diagnose them with a microscope. Over the last few years, however, real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) has emerged as a rapid and reliable alternative to visual symptom scoring for monitoring pathogens. Thus, we present here a qPCR assay suitable for the detection and quantification of the intracellular oomycete pathogen Eurychasma dicksonii in its ectocarpalean and laminarialean brown algal hosts. qPCR and microscopic observations made of laboratory-controlled cultures revealed that clonal brown algal strains exhibit different levels of resistance against Eurychasma, ranging from high susceptibility to complete absence of symptoms. This observation strongly argues for the existence of a genetic determinism for disease resistance in brown algae, which would have broad implications for the dynamics and genetic structure of natural populations. We also used qPCR for the rapid detection of Eurychasma in filamentous brown algae collected in Northern Europe and South America and found that the assay is specific, robust, and widely applicable to field samples. Hence, this study opens the perspective of combining large-scale disease monitoring in the field with laboratory-controlled experiments on the genome model seaweed Ectocarpus siliculosus to improve our understanding of brown algal diseases.
- Biotechnology & Applied Microbiology
- MOLECULAR PHYLOGENY