Grapevine “bois noir”, related to the presence of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ (‘Ca. P. solani’), represents a serious threat in several vine-growing areas worldwide. In surveys conducted over two years, mild and/or moderate symptoms and lower pathogen titer were mainly associated with ‘Ca. P. solani’ strains harboring a secY gene sequence variant (secY52), whereas severe symptoms and higher titer were mainly observed in grapevines infected by phytoplasma strains carrying any one of another four variants. A comparison of amino acid sequences of the protein SecY of ‘Ca. P. solani’ strains revealed the presence of conservative and semi-conservative substitutions. The deduced three-dimensional (3D) protein analysis unveiled that one semi-conservative substitution identified in the sequence variant secY52 is responsible for a structural disordered region that probably confers a flexibility for binding to distinct molecular complexes. In fact, the other analyzed variants show an organized structure and the 3D in silico prediction allowed the identification of β-sheets. Thus, differences in symptom severity and pathogen concentration observed in grapevines infected by ‘Ca. P. solani’ strains carrying distinct secY gene sequence variants suggest a possible relationship between SecY protein structure and phytoplasma strain virulence.
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.
Bois noir (BN), associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ (CaPsol), is the most widespread disease of the grapevine yellows complex worldwide. In this work, BN epidemiology was investigated in a case study vineyard where an unusual CaPsol strain, previously detected only in other host plants, was found to be prevalent in grapevine. Experimental activities included: symptom observation; sampling of symptomatic vines, Auchenorrhyncha specimens, and weeds; molecular detection and typing of CaPsol strains; statistical analyses for determining possible relationships between CaPsol relative concentration, strain type, and symptom severity. Among insects, Reptalus quinquecostatus was the most abundant and was found to be highly infected by CaPsol, while Hyalesthes obsoletus, the main CaPsol vector, was not caught. Moreover, R. quinquecostatus harbored CaPsol strains carrying uniquely the stamp sequence variant St10, also identified as prevalent in vines and in the majority of weeds, and all the secY variants identified in the vineyard. Statistical analyses revealed that CaPsol strains carrying the St10 variant are not associated with severe symptoms, suggesting their possible moderate virulence. Based on such evidence, a new BN epidemiological pattern related to these CaPsol strains and involving grapevine, R. quinquecostatus, and/or weeds is proposed. Furthermore, the possible presence of other players (vectors and weeds) involved in CaPsol transmission to grapevines was highlighted.