AbstractDuring the past two decades, a high mortality of coconut palms was observed in the coastal areas of Equatorial Guinea. Reportedly, the palm population has been reduced by 60%–70%, and coconut production has decreased accordingly. To identify the cause of the mortality, a survey was carried out in April 2021 in various localities of the coconut belt. Molecular analyses carried out on 16S rRNA and secA genes detected phytoplasma presence in the majority of the samples. Sequencing and BLAST search of the 16S rRNA gene sequences showed >99% identity of the detected phytoplasmas to ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma palmicola’. The RFLP analyses of 16S ribosomal gene using Tru1I and TaqI enzymes led to assign these phytoplasmas to subgroup 16SrXXII‐A. In all samples that tested positive, including one from a hybrid coconut palm and two from oil palm the same phytoplasma was identified. The phylogenetic analyses of 16S rRNA and secA genes confirmed respectively 99.98%–100% and 97.94%–100% identity to ‘Ca. P. palmicola’. RFLP analyses using MboII enzyme on the secA gene amplicon differentiated the phytoplasma found in Equatorial Guinea from those present in Ghana and Ivory Coast. The Equatorial Guinean phytoplasma strain resulted to be identical to the strains from Mozambique, confirming the presence of a geographic differentiation among phytoplasma strains in the coastal areas of Western and Central Africa. The identified phytoplasma is different from the ‘Ca. P. palmicola’ strains found in Ghana and Ivory Coast and represents the first identification a 16SrXXII‐A strain in Equatorial Guinea and in Central Africa. Strict monitoring and surveillance procedures for early detection of the pathogen are strongly recommended to reduce its impact and further spread in the country and permit the recovery of coconut plantations.
The genus ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ was proposed to accommodate cell wall-less bacteria that are molecularly and biochemically incompletely characterized, and colonize plant phloem and insect vector tissues. This provisional classification is highly relevant due to its application in epidemiological and ecological studies, mainly aimed at keeping the severe phytoplasma plant diseases under control worldwide. Given the increasing discovery of molecular diversity within the genus ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’, the proposed guidelines were revised and clarified to accommodate those ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’ species strains sharing >98.65 % sequence identity of their full or nearly full 16S rRNA gene sequences, obtained with at least twofold coverage of the sequence, compared with those of the reference strain of such species. Strains sharing <98.65 % sequence identity with the reference strain but >98.65 % with other strain(s) within the same ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’ species should be considered related strains to that ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’ species. The guidelines herein, keep the original published reference strains. However, to improve ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’ species assignment, complementary strains are suggested as an alternative to the reference strains. This will be implemented when only a partial 16S rRNA gene and/or a few other genes have been sequenced, or the strain is no longer available for further molecular characterization. Lists of ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’ species and alternative reference strains described are reported. For new ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’ species that will be assigned with identity ≥98.65 % of their 16S rRNA gene sequences, a threshold of 95 % genome-wide average nucleotide identity is suggested. When the whole genome sequences are unavailable, two among conserved housekeeping genes could be used. There are 49 officially published ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ species, including ‘Ca. P. cocostanzaniae’ and ‘Ca. P. palmae’ described in this manuscript.
The considerable economic losses in citrus associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ and ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ presence have alerted all producing regions of the world. In Chile, none of these bacteria have been reported in citrus species. During the years 2017 and 2019, 258 samples presenting symptoms similar to those associated with the presence of these bacteria were examined. No detection of ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ associated with “huanglongbing” disease was obtained in the tested samples; therefore, this quarantine pest is maintained as absent in Chile. However, 14 plants resulted positive for phytoplasmas enclosed in subgroups 16SrV-A (12 plants) and 16SrXIII-F (2 plants). Although they have been found in other plant species, this is the first report of these phytoplasmas in citrus worldwide.
The knowledge of phytoplasma genetic variability is a tool to study their epidemiology and to implement an effective monitoring and management of their associated diseases. ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ is associated with “bois noir” disease in grapevines, and yellowing and decline symptoms in many plant species, causing serious damages during the epidemic outbreaks. The epidemiology of the diseases associated with this phytoplasma is complex and related to numerous factors, such as interactions of the host plant and insect vectors and spreading through infected plant propagation material. The genetic variability of ‘Ca. P. solani’ strains in different host species and in different geographic areas during the last two decades was studied by RFLP analyses coupled with sequencing on vmp1, stamp, and tuf genes. A total of 119 strains were examined, 25 molecular variants were identified, and the variability of the studied genes was linked to both geographic distribution and year of infection. The crucial question in ‘Ca. P. solani’ epidemiology is to trace back the epidemic cycle of the infections. This study presents some relevant features about differential strain distribution useful for disease monitoring and forecasting, illustrating and comparing the phytoplasma molecular variants identified in various regions, host species, and time periods.
Abstract“Huanglongbing” (HLB) is one of the most devastating diseases of citrus orchards worldwide. Samples from 183 citrus plants of different cultivars and rootstock/cultivar combinations, showing HLB symptoms in three Caribbean countries (Cuba, Jamaica, and Guadeloupe-France), were collected to verify the possible co-infection of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ and ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ species. The 64% of the samples resulted positive to the ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ and the 27% to diverse ‘Ca. Phytoplasma’-related species, moreover about the 14% of the samples infected with ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ were also found positive to phytoplasmas, indicating the presence of mixed infection especially in the orchards located in Cuba. Moreover, in one of the samples from Jamaica mixed phytoplasma infection was detected. Moreover the detection of only phytoplasmas in 11 symptomatic citrus samples collected from Cuba and Guadeloupe without ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ detection, confirmed that the symptomatology cannot be the sole criterium to discriminate between the presence of the two pathogens, and molecular detection is necessary to identify single or mixed infections. Diaphorina citri insects collected from Cuba and Guadeloupe resulted infected with ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ confirming its active role in the dissemination of the pathogen. Only one insect of the Cicadidae family, collected in Guadeloupe, was found positive for phytoplasma presence. Considering that the phytoplasmas belonging to some ‘Candidatus species’ were detected in the three countries in different citrus varieties, a relevant role as phytoplasma reservoir can be attribute to citrus orchards.