CYP51 encodes the target site of the azole class of fungicides widely used in plant protection. Some ascomycete pathogens carry two CYP51 paralogs called CYP51A and CYP51B. A recent analysis of CYP51 sequences in 14 European isolates of the barley scald pathogen Rhynchosporium commune revealed three CYP51 paralogs, CYP51A, CYP51B, and a pseudogene called CYP51A-p. The same analysis showed that CYP51A exhibits a presence/absence polymorphism, with lower sensitivity to azole fungicides associated with the presence of a functional CYP51A. We analyzed a global collection of nearly 400 R. commune isolates to determine if these findings could be extended beyond Europe. Our results strongly support the hypothesis that CYP51A played a key role in the emergence of azole resistance globally and provide new evidence that the CYP51A gene in R. commune has further evolved, presumably in response to azole exposure. We also present evidence for recent long-distance movement of evolved CYP51A alleles, highlighting the risk associated with movement of fungicide resistance alleles among international trading partners.
- Intragenic recombination