The ectomycorrhizal fungus Tuber magnatum produces the white truffle appreciated worldwide for its unique aroma. With respect to other Tuber spp. of economic interest, T. magnatum presents a narrower geographical range. This species has, in fact, long been considered endemic to Italy. However, over the last few decades several reports have documented the presence of white truffles in different Mediterranean countries and in particular in various areas of south-east Europe. In this study, samples from several Pannonian and Balkan countries such as Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece have been collected and genotyped with microsatellite markers and the data merged with those available for Italian populations. Our objectives were to test whether Italian and south-east European populations are differentiated and to evaluate the genetic diversity of T. magnatum all over its distributional range. We show the genetic structure of T. magnatum populations with the differentiation of four main groups: northern Italy, central-northern Italy, southern Italy and the Balkan/Pannonian region. The present study allowed us to refine the evolutionary history of T. magnatum and track the possible post-glacial expansion route of this species. The assessment of T. magnatum’s genetic structure is not only of scientific relevance, but it is also important for the conservation and market traceability of this prestigious fungus.
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