We investigated whether genetic variation of a common foliar endophyte of birch trees, Venturia ditricha, is affected by environmental conditions or host genotype. Fungal samples were collected from 10 half-sibling families of mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) grown in two environmental conditions with different daily average temperatures: a forested river valley and an adjacent open tundra (altitudinal difference 180 m). Genetic analysis of V. ditricha isolates was done using random amplified microsatellite polymerase chain reaction. We found that host genotypes, along with prevailing environmental conditions, influence the probability of infection by particular endophyte genotypes. The most susceptible host genotypes were highly infected with genetically similar endophyte genotypes, whereas the most resistant trees were poorly infected and they were infected by genetically dissimilar endophytes. Our results also showed environment–host genotype interactions, suggesting that the susceptibility of the host to a particular endophyte genotype may change in natural environments when environmental conditions are changed. It appears that a particular endophyte genotype needs to find the right host genotype for a successful infection. There are many host genotypes in natural stands; this means, from the point of view of the fungus, the environment is heterogeneous. Thus, under the influence of birch tree genotypes, genetically differentiated subgroups of the endophytic fungus may be formed in different environments.
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Vol. 56 • No. 8