Improving ITS sequence data for identification of plant pathogenic fungi

R. Henrik Nilsson, Kevin D. Hyde, Julia Pawłowska, Martin Ryberg, Leho Tedersoo, Anders Bjørnsgard Aas, Siti A. Alias, Artur Alves, Cajsa Lisa Anderson, Alexandre Antonelli, A. Elizabeth Arnold, Barbara Bahnmann, Mohammad Bahram, Johan Bengtsson-Palme, Anna Berlin, Sara Branco, Putarak Chomnunti, Asha Dissanayake, Rein Drenkhan, Hanna FribergTobias Guldberg Frøslev, Bettina Halwachs, Martin Hartmann, Beatrice Henricot, Ruvishika Jayawardena, Ari Jumpponen, Håvard Kauserud, Sonja Koskela, Tomasz Kulik, Kare Liimatainen, Björn D. Lindahl, Daniel Lindner, Jian-Kui Liu, Sajeewa Maharachchikumbura, Dimuthu Manamgoda, Svante Martinsson, Maria Alice Neves, Tuula Niskanen, Stephan Nylinder, Olinto Liparini Pereira, Danilo Batista Pinho, Teresita M. Porter, Valentin Queloz, Taavi Riit, Marisol Sánchez-García, Filipe Sousa de, Emil Stefańczyk, Mariusz Tadych, Susumu Takamatsu, Qing Tian, Dhanushka Udayanga, Martin Unterseher, Zheng Wang, Saowanee Wikee, Jiye Yan, Ellen Larsson, Karl-Henrik Larsson, Urmas Kõljalg, Kessy Abarenkov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plant pathogenic fungi are a large and diverse assemblage of eukaryotes with substantial impacts on natural ecosystems and human endeavours. These taxa often have complex and poorly understood life cycles, lack observable, discriminatory morphological characters, and may not be amenable to in vitro culturing. As a result, species identification is frequently difficult. Molecular (DNA sequence) data have emerged as crucial information for the taxonomic identification of plant pathogenic fungi, with the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region being the most popular marker. However, international nucleotide sequence databases are accumulating numerous sequences of compromised or low-resolution taxonomic annotations and substandard technical quality, making their use in the molecular identification of plant pathogenic fungi problematic. Here we report on a concerted effort to identify high-quality reference sequences for various plant pathogenic fungi and to re-annotate incorrectly or insufficiently annotated public ITS sequences from these fungal lineages. A third objective was to enrich the sequences with geographical and ecological metadata. The results – a total of 31,954 changes – are incorporated in and made available through the UNITE database for molecular identification of fungi (, including standalone FASTA files of sequence data for local BLAST searches, use in the next-generation sequencing analysis platforms QIIME and mothur, and related applications. The present initiative is just a beginning to cover the wide spectrum of plant pathogenic fungi, and we invite all researchers with pertinent expertise to join the annotation effort.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-19
JournalFungal Diversity
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Fields of Expertise

  • Sonstiges

Treatment code (Nähere Zuordnung)

  • Basic - Fundamental (Grundlagenforschung)


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