Gene trees based on the DNA sequences of three peroxidase genes of
Heterobasidion were compared to previously published trees based on rDNA
spacer regions (the two internal transcribed spacer regions and the first
intergenic spacer region). This genus of polypored fungi is comprised of
three formally recognized species and several intersterility groups within
H. annosum, an important root rot pathogen on the Pinaceae. There was
congruence among the gene trees in placing H. araucariae and H. insulare
basal to the H. annosum complex; and the European pine form, the American
pine form, and the fir-spruce form of H. annosum were seen as three
separate, strongly-supported lineages in all trees. Within the fir-spruce
form, two morphologically and ecologically distinct types are recognized in
Europe, the 'S' and 'F' types, which are specialized to spruce and fir,
respectively. The 'S' and 'F' types were indistinguishable by their rDNA
spacer sequences but were highly divergent in their peroxidase sequences.
The 'S' and 'F' types are partially interfertile in laboratory tests, and
hybridization events after speciation may explain the similarity of their
rDNA spacer regions. The maintenance of divergent extracellular enzymes
such as peroxidases, which are critical for wood decay, in the 'S' and 'F'
types may be due to selection pressures associated with host specialization.