The Fusarium sambucinum species complex (FSAMSC) is one of the most taxonomically challenging groups of fusaria, comprising prominent mycotoxigenic plant pathogens and other species with various lifestyles. Among toxins produced by members of the FSAMSC, trichothecenes pose the most significant threat to public health. Herein a global collection of 171 strains, originating from diverse hosts or substrates, were selected to represent FSAMSC diversity. This strain collection was used to assess their species diversity, evaluate their potential to produce trichothecenes, and cause disease on wheat. Maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses of a combined 3-gene dataset used to infer evolutionary relationships revealed that the 171 strains originally received as 48 species represent 74 genealogically exclusive phylogenetically distinct species distributed among six strongly supported clades: Brachygibbosum, Graminearum, Longipes, Novel, Sambucinum, and Sporotrichioides. Most of the strains produced trichothecenes in vitro but varied in type, indicating that the six clades correspond to type A, type B, or both types of trichothecene-producing lineages. Furthermore, five strains representing two putative novel species within the Sambucinum Clade produced two newly discovered type A trichothecenes, 15-keto NX-2 and 15-keto NX-3. Strains of the two putatively novel species together with members of the Graminearum Clade were aggressive toward wheat when tested for pathogenicity on heads of the susceptible cultivar Apogee. In planta, the Graminearum Clade strains produced nivalenol or deoxynivalenol and the aggressive Sambucinum Clade strains synthesized NX-3 and 15-keto NX-3. Other strains within the Brachygibbosum, Longipes, Novel, Sambucinum, and Sporotrichioides Clades were nonpathogenic or could infect the inoculated floret without spreading within the head. Moreover, most of these strains did not produce any toxin in the inoculated spikelets. These data highlight aggressiveness toward wheat appears to be influenced by the type of toxin produced and that it is not limited to members of the Graminearum Clade.
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