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Specimens of Xanthoria parietina were collected from worldwide locations and ascospore discharge used to establish axenic cultures of the mycobiont. DNA was extracted and RAPD-PCR fingerprinting of 59 isolates was successfully achieved, resulting in 58 unique fingerprints. 110 multilocus RAPD markers were generated and used to construct a dendrogram. Two main groups were distinguished (75% bootstrap support): the first comprising samples from the Iberian Peninsula, the Balearic and Canary Islands; the second comprising all other worldwide samples including isolates from throughout Europe and North America. Samples from Australia and New Zealand clustered with the second group except one additional, phenotypically distinct specimen, not belonging to X. parietina, which formed an outgroup. However, comparative DNA sequence analyses are required to verify this interpretation.
Genetic variability among sterile cultured single ascospore isolates of Xanthoria parietina, X. calcicola, X. ectaneoides, X. capensis, X. polycarpa and X. resendei was investigated with RAPD-PCR. If available five out of eight ascospores per ascus were analysed. In some samples multispore and mycelial isolates from ascomata were included in the analysis. Ascospore germination rates and phenotypic features such as growth rate, pigmentation and secondary metabolites were uniform in X. parietina sporelings of the same ascus, but varied among the progeny of meiosis in all other species. Phenotypic features correlated with genetic variability. X. parietina revealed polymorphisms among specimens from different worldwide locations. In contrast nine out of ten sets of sibling spores were genetically uniform, with only 2% polymorphism in the remaining set, indicating that X. parietina might be homothallic. X. calcicola, X. ectaneoides, X. capensis, X. polycarpa and X. resendei revealed 9–66% polymorphic loci and therefore are considered heterothallic.
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