Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Simple sequence repeat markers useful for sorghum downy mildew (Peronosclerospora sorghi) and related species

Ramasamy Perumal1, Padmavathi Nimmakayala4, Saradha R Erattaimuthu1, Eun-Gyu No3, Umesh K Reddy4, Louis K Prom5, Gary N Odvody2, Douglas G Luster6 and Clint W Magill1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas – 77843-2132, USA

2 Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Texas Agrilife Sciences, Corpus Christi, Texas – 78406-1412, USA

3 Institute for Plant Genomics & Biotechnology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas – 77843-2123, USA

4 West Virginia State University, Institute, Department of Biology and Gus R. Douglas Institute, WV – 25112, USA

5 USDA-ARS, Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center, College Station, Texas – 77845, USA

6 USDA/ARS, Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit, Ft. Detrick, Maryland – 21702, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genetics 2008, 9:77  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-9-77

Published: 29 November 2008



A recent outbreak of sorghum downy mildew in Texas has led to the discovery of both metalaxyl resistance and a new pathotype in the causal organism, Peronosclerospora sorghi. These observations and the difficulty in resolving among phylogenetically related downy mildew pathogens dramatically point out the need for simply scored markers in order to differentiate among isolates and species, and to study the population structure within these obligate oomycetes. Here we present the initial results from the use of a biotin capture method to discover, clone and develop PCR primers that permit the use of simple sequence repeats (microsatellites) to detect differences at the DNA level.


Among the 55 primers pairs designed from clones from pathotype 3 of P. sorghi, 36 flanked microsatellite loci containing simple repeats, including 28 (55%) with dinucleotide repeats and 6 (11%) with trinucleotide repeats. A total of 22 microsatellites with CA/AC or GT/TG repeats were the most abundant (40%) and GA/AG or CT/TC types contribute 15% in our collection. When used to amplify DNA from 19 isolates from P. sorghi, as well as from 5 related species that cause downy mildew on other hosts, the number of different bands detected for each SSR primer pair using a LI-COR- DNA Analyzer ranged from two to eight. Successful cross-amplification for 12 primer pairs studied in detail using DNA from downy mildews that attack maize (P. maydis & P. philippinensis), sugar cane (P. sacchari), pearl millet (Sclerospora graminicola) and rose (Peronospora sparsa) indicate that the flanking regions are conserved in all these species. A total of 15 SSR amplicons unique to P. philippinensis (one of the potential threats to US maize production) were detected, and these have potential for development of diagnostic tests. A total of 260 alleles were obtained using 54 microsatellites primer combinations, with an average of 4.8 polymorphic markers per SSR across 34 Peronosclerospora, Peronospora and Sclerospora spp isolates studied. Cluster analysis by UPGMA as well as principal coordinate analysis (PCA) grouped the 34 isolates into three distinct groups (all 19 isolates of Peronosclerospora sorghi in cluster I, five isolates of P. maydis and three isolates of P. sacchari in cluster II and five isolates of Sclerospora graminicola in cluster III).


To our knowledge, this is the first attempt to extensively develop SSR markers from Peronosclerospora genomic DNA. The newly developed SSR markers can be readily used to distinguish isolates within several species of the oomycetes that cause downy mildew diseases. Also, microsatellite fragments likely include retrotransposon regions of DNA and these sequences can serve as useful genetic markers for strain identification, due to their degree of variability and their widespread occurrence among sorghum, maize, sugarcane, pearl millet and rose downy mildew isolates.