Understanding how phytoplasmas move and multiply within the host plant is fundamental for plant–pathogen interaction studies. In recent years, the tomato has been used as a model plant to study this type of interaction. In the present work, we investigated the distribution and multiplication dynamics of one strain of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma (Ca. P.) solani’ (16SrXII-A) in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L., cv. Micro-Tom) plants. We obtained infected plants by grafting, a fast and effective method to maintain phytoplasma infection. In planta spread and multiplication of ‘Ca. P. solani’ was monitored over time using qualitative and quantitative qPCR. Root, apical shoot, lower leaves, and upper leaves were sampled at each sampling time. We hypothesized that ‘Ca. P. solani’ from the grafting site reached firstly the highest leaf, the apex and the roots; subsequently, the phytoplasmas spread to the rest of the upper leaves and then progressively to the lower leaves. Significant differences were found in ‘Ca. P. solani’ titer among different plant tissues. In particular, the concentration of phytoplasma in the roots was significantly higher than that in the other plant compartments in almost all the sampling dates. Since the roots show rapid colonization and the highest concentration of phytoplasmas, they represent the ideal tissue to sample for an early, sensitive and robust diagnosis.
Plants of Convolvulus arvensis exhibiting symptoms of undersized leaves, shoot proliferation and yellowing, collectively defined as bindweed yellows, were sampled in different regions of Europe and assessed for phytoplasma infection by PCR amplification using phytoplasma universal rRNA operon primer pairs. Positive results were obtained for all diseased plants. RFLP analysis of amplicons comprising the16S rRNA gene alone or the16S rRNA gene and 16-23S intergenic spacer region indicated that the detected phytoplasmas were distinguishable from all other previously described rRNA gene sequences. Analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences derived from seven selected phytoplasma strains (BY-S57/11, BY-S62/11, BY-I1015, BY-I1016, BY-BH1, BY-BH2 and BY-G) showed that they were nearly identical (99.9–100 % gene sequence similarity) but shared less than 97.5 % similarity with comparable sequences of other phytoplasmas. Thus, BY phytoplasmas represent a new taxon whose closest relatives are stolbur phytoplasma strains and ‘
’ with which they share 97.2 % and 97.1 % 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity, respectively. Phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences confirmed that bindweed yellows phytoplasma strains collectively represent a distinct lineage within the phytoplasma clade and share a common ancestor with previously published or proposed ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ taxa within a major branch including aster yellows and stolbur phytoplasmas. On the basis of unique 16S rRNA gene sequences and biological properties that include a single host plant species and a geographical distribution limited to parts of Europe, the bindweed yellows (BY) phytoplasmas represent a coherent but discrete taxon, ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma convolvuli’, with strain BY-S57/11 (GenBank accession no. JN833705) as the reference strain.