‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’ is a cell wall-less phytopathogenic bacterium that infects many agriculturally important plant species such as alfalfa, clover, eggplant, pepper, potato, and tomato. The phytoplasma is responsible for repeated outbreaks of potato purple top (PPT) and potato witches’ broom (PWB) that occurred along the Pacific Coast of the United States since 2002, inflicting significant economic losses. To effectively manage these phytoplasmal diseases, it is important to develop diagnostic tools for specific, sensitive, and rapid detection of the pathogens. Here we report the development of a DNA endonuclease targeted CRISPR trans reporter (DETECTR) assay that couples isothermal amplification and Cas12a transcleavage of fluorescent oligonucleotide reporter for highly sensitive and specific detection of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’-related strains responsible for PPT and PWB. The DETECTR assay was capable of specifically detecting the 16S-23S ribosomal DNA intergenic transcribed spacer sequences from PPT- and PWB-diseased samples at the attomolar sensitivity level. Furthermore, the DETECTR strategy allows flexibility to capture assay outputs with fluorescent microplate readers or lateral flow assays for potentially high-throughput and/or field-deployable disease diagnostics.
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 reference strain of 'Ca. Phytoplasma trifolii' is the causative agent of clover proliferation (CP) disease of alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum). The CP disease was first reported in Canada in the early 1960s when the aetiological agent was mistakenly presumed to be a yellows-type virus (Chiykowski, 1965). Subsequent investigations revealed that the disease was associated with infection by a mycoplasma-like organism (Chen and Hiruki, 1975>; Hiruki and Chen, 1984), now termed phytoplasma, strain CPR (Hiruki and Wang, 2004). Later, phytoplasmas of the same lineage (subgroup 16SrVI-A) were found in the USA, Mexico, and many countries in Europe and Asia, causing diseases in diverse leguminous and vegetable crops, responsible for significant yield losses and quality reductions. Phytoplasmas of the same lineage also caused disease in elm trees in the USA. Phytoplasmas of closely-related lineages (various subgroups of group 16SrVI) also have wide distributions around the world.
The reference strain of 'Ca. Phytoplasma trifolii' is the causative agent of clover proliferation (CP) disease of alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum). The CP disease was first reported in Canada in the early 1960s when the aetiological agent was mistakenly presumed to be a yellows-type virus (Chiykowski, 1965). Subsequent investigations revealed that the disease was associated with infection by a mycoplasma-like organism (Chen and Hiruki, 1975; Hiruki and Chen, 1984), now termed phytoplasma, strain CPR (Hiruki and Wang, 2004). Later, phytoplasmas of the same lineage (subgroup 16SrVI-A) were found in the USA, Mexico, and many countries in Europe and Asia, causing diseases in diverse leguminous and vegetable crops, responsible for significant yield losses and quality reductions. Phytoplasmas of the same lineage also caused disease in elm trees in the USA. Phytoplasmas of closely-related lineages (various subgroups of group 16SrVI) also have wide distributions around the world.
Wheat blue dwarf (WBD) is one of the most economically damaging cereal crop diseases in northwestern PR China. The agent associated with the WBD disease is a phytoplasma affiliated with the aster yellows (AY) group, subgroup C (16SrI-C). Since phytoplasma strains within the AY group are ecologically and genetically diverse, it has been conceived that the AY phytoplasma group may consist of more than one species. This communication presents evidence to demonstrate that, while each of the two 16 rRNA genes of the WBD phytoplasma shares >97.5 % sequence similarity with that of the ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris’ reference strain, the WBD phytoplasma clearly represents an ecologically separated lineage: the WBD phytoplasma not only has its unique transmitting vector (Psammotettix striatus) but also elicits a distinctive symptom in its predominant plant host (wheat). In addition, the WBD phytoplasma possesses molecular characteristics that further manifest its significant divergence from ‘Ca. P. asteris’. Such molecular characteristics include lineage-specific antigenic membrane proteins and a lower than 95 % genome-wide average nucleotide identity score with ‘Ca. P. asteris’. These ecological, molecular and genomic evidences justify the recognition of the WBD phytoplasma as a novel taxon, ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma tritici’.
Grapevine Bois noir (BN) is associated with infection by “Candidatus Phytoplasma solani” (CaPsol). In this study, an array of CaPsol strains was identified from 142 symptomatic grapevines in vineyards of northern, central, and southern Italy and North Macedonia. Molecular typing of the CaPsol strains was carried out by analysis of genes encoding 16S rRNA and translation elongation factor EF-Tu, as well as eight other previously uncharacterized genomic fragments. Strains of tuf-type a and b were found to be differentially distributed in the examined geographic regions in correlation with the prevalence of nettle and bindweed. Two sequence variants were identified in each of the four genomic segments harboring hlyC, cbiQ-glyA, trxA-truB-rsuA, and rplS-tyrS-csdB, respectively. Fifteen CaPsol lineages were identified based on distinct combinations of sequence variations within these genetic loci. Each CaPsol lineage exhibited a unique collective restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) pattern and differed from each other in geographic distribution, probably in relation to the diverse ecological complexity of vineyards and their surroundings. This RFLP-based typing method could be a useful tool for investigating the ecology of CaPsol and the epidemiology of its associated diseases. Phylogenetic analyses highlighted that the sequence variants of the gene hlyC, which encodes a hemolysin III-like protein, separated into two clusters consistent with the separation of two distinct lineages on the basis of tufB gene sequences. Alignments of deduced full protein sequences of elongation factor-Tu (tufB gene) and hemolysin III-like protein (hlyC gene) revealed the presence of critical amino acid substitutions distinguishing CaPsol strains of tuf-type a and b. Findings from the present study provide new insights into the genetic diversity and ecology of CaPsol populations in vineyards.