Visualization of three sclerotiniaceae species pathogenic on onion reveals distinct biology and infection strategies

Maikel B.F. Steentjes, Sebastian Tonn, Hilde Coolman, Sander Langebeeke, Olga E. Scholten, Jan A.L. van Kan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Botrytis squamosa, Botrytis aclada, and Sclerotium cepivorum are three fungal species of the family Sclerotiniaceae that are pathogenic on onion. Despite their close relatedness, these fungi cause very distinct diseases, respectively called leaf blight, neck rot, and white rot, which pose serious threats to onion cultivation. The infection biology of neck rot and white rot in particular is poorly understood. In this study, we used GFP-expressing transformants of all three fungi to visu-alize the early phases of infection. B. squamosa entered onion leaves by growing either through sto-mata or into anticlinal walls of onion epidermal cells. B. aclada, known to cause post-harvest rot and spoilage of onion bulbs, did not penetrate the leaf surface but instead formed superficial colonies which produced new conidia. S. cepivorum entered onion roots via infection cushions and appres-sorium-like structures. In the non-host tomato, S. cepivorum also produced appressorium-like structures and infection cushions, but upon prolonged contact with the non-host the infection structures died. With this study, we have gained understanding in the infection biology and strategy of each of these onion pathogens. Moreover, by comparing the infection mechanisms we were able to increase insight into how these closely related fungi can cause such different diseases

Original languageEnglish
Article number1865
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2021


  • Allium cepa
  • Botrytis aclada
  • Botrytis squamosa
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Infection biology
  • Leaf blight
  • Neck rot
  • Onion
  • Sclerotium cepivorum
  • White rot


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