Genetic Diversity of Dahongjun, the Commercially Important “Big Red Mushroom” from Southern China
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BACKGROUND: In southern China, a wild ectomycorrhizal mushroom commonly called "Dahongjun" or "Big Red Mushroom" by the local residents, has been harvested, consumed, and/or exported as an exotic food for many years. Although ecologically and economically important, very little is known about this mushroom, including its diversity and population structure. METHODOLOGY AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this study, we analyzed 122 samples from five local populations representing the known distribution ranges of this mushroom in southern China. We investigated the genetic diversity and geographic structure of this mushroom using sequences from four DNA fragments. Our analyses identified that this mushroom contained at least three divergent lineages: one corresponds to a recently described species Russula griseocarnosa from southern China and the remaining two likely represent two novel species. While these lineages were prominently structured geographically based on ITS sequences, evidence for ancient and/or recent gene flow was also identified within individual lineages. In addition, a local population from Ailaoshan in central Yunnan Province where 85 of our 122 specimens came from showed clear evidence of recombination. CONCLUSION AND SIGNIFICANCE: The ectomycorrhizal mushroom "Dahongjun" from southern China is a species complex with at least three divergent lineages. These lineages are largely geographically structured and there is evidence for recombination in nature. Our results indicate mature Dahongjun mushrooms with abundant basidiospores are important for the reproduction of this mushroom in nature and that individual populations of this species should be managed separately.