Hybridization and introgression drive genome evolution of Dutch elm disease pathogens.
Hybridization and the resulting introgression can drive the success of invasive species via the rapid acquisition of adaptive traits. The Dutch elm disease pandemics in the past 100 years were caused by three fungal lineages with permeable reproductive barriers: Ophiostoma ulmi, Ophiostoma novo-ulmi subspecies novo-ulmi and Ophiostoma novo-ulmi subspecies americana. Using whole-genome sequences and growth phenotyping of a worldwide collection of isolates, we show that introgression has been the main driver of genomic diversity and that it impacted fitness-related traits. Introgressions contain genes involved in host-pathogen interactions and reproduction. Introgressed isolates have enhanced growth rate at high temperature and produce different necrosis sizes on an in vivo model for pathogenicity. In addition, lineages diverge in many pathogenicity-associated genes and exhibit differential mycelial growth in the presence of a proxy of a host defence compound, implying an important role of host trees in the molecular and functional differentiation of these pathogens.