Characterization of genes involved in differentiation of pathogen species and isolates with variations of virulence traits provides valuable information to control tree diseases for meeting the challenges of sustainable forest health and phytosanitary trade issues. Lack of genetic knowledge and genomic
resources hinders novel gene discovery, molecular mechanism studies and development of diagnostic tools in the management of forest pathogens. Here, we report on transcriptome profiling of Heterobasidion occidentale isolates with contrasting virulence levels. Comparative transcriptomic analysis identified orthologous groups exclusive to H. occidentale and its isolates, revealing biological processes involved in the differentiation of isolates. Further bioinformatics analyses identified an H. occidentale secretome, CYPome and other candidate effectors, from which genes with species- and isolate-specific expression were characterized. A large proportion of differentially expressed genes were revealed to have putative activities as cell wall modification enzymes and transcription factors, suggesting their potential roles in virulence and fungal pathogenesis. Next, large numbers of simple sequence repeats (SSRs) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were detected, including more than 14 000 interisolate non-synonymous SNPs. These polymorphic loci and species/isolate-specific genes may contribute to virulence variations and provide ideal DNA markers for development of diagnostic tools and investigation of genetic diversity.