The plasmodiophorids are a group of eukaryotic intracellular parasites that cause disease in a variety of economically significant crops. Plasmodiophorids have traditionally been considered fungi but have more recently been suggested to be members of the Cercozoa, a morphologically diverse group of amoeboid, flagellate, and amoeboflagellate protists. The recognition that Cercozoa constitute a monophyletic lineage has come from phylogenetic analyses of small subunit ribosomal RNA genes. Protein sequence data have suggested that the closest relatives of Cercozoa are the Foraminifera. To further test a cercozoan origin for the plasmodiophorids, we isolated actin genes from Plasmodiophora brassicae, Sorosphaera veronicae, and Spongospora subterranea, and polyubiquitin gene fragments from P. brassicae and S. subterranea. We also isolated actin genes from the chlorarachniophyte Lotharella globosa. In protein phylogenies of actin, the plasmodiophorid sequences consistently branch with Cercozoa and Foraminifera, and weakly branch as the sister group to the foraminiferans. The plasmodiophorid polyubiquitin sequences contain a single amino acid residue insertion at the functionally important processing point between ubiquitin monomers, the same place in which an otherwise unique insertion exists in the cercozoan and foraminiferan proteins. Taken together, these results indicate that plasmodiophorids are indeed related to Cercozoa and Foraminifera, although the relationships amongst these groups remain unresolved.
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Vol. 51 • No. 1