In addition to the grapevine flavescence dorée phytoplasmas, other members of taxonomic group 16SrV phytoplasmas infect grapevines, alders and species of the genera Clematis and Rubus in Europe. In order to investigate which phytoplasmas constitute discrete, species-level taxa, several strains were analysed by comparing their 16S rRNA gene sequences and a set of five housekeeping genes. Whereas 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity values were >97.5 %, the proposed threshold to distinguish two ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ taxa, phylogenetic analysis of the combined sequences of the tuf, rplV-rpsC, rplF-rplR, map and uvrB-degV genetic loci showed that two discrete phylogenetic clusters could be clearly distinguished. The first cluster grouped flavescence dorée (FD) phytoplasmas, alder yellows (AldY) phytoplasmas, Clematis (CL) phytoplasmas and the Palatinate grapevine yellows (PGY) phytoplasmas. The second cluster comprised Rubus stunt (RS) phytoplasmas. In addition to the specificity of the insect vector, the Rubus stunt phytoplasma contained specific sequences in the 16S rRNA gene. Hence, the Rubus stunt phytoplasma 16S rRNA gene was sufficiently differentiated to represent a novel putative taxon: ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma rubi’.
Marginal chlorosis is a new disease of strawberry in which the uncultured phloem-restricted proteobacterium “
Phlomobacter fragariae” is involved. In order to identify the insect(s) vector(s) of this bacterium, homopteran insects have been captured. Because a PCR test based on the 16S rRNA gene (rDNA) applied to these insects was unable to discriminate between “P. fragariae” and other insect-associated proteobacteria, isolation of “P. fragariae” genes other than 16S rDNA was undertaken. Using comparative randomly amplified polymorphic DNAs, an amplicon was specifically amplified from “P. fragariae”-infected strawberry plants. It encodes part of a “P. fragariae” open reading frame sharing appreciable homology with the
gene from other proteobacteria. A
-based PCR test combined with restriction fragment length polymorphisms was developed and was able to distinguish “P. fragariae” from other insect bacteria. None of the many leafhoppers and psyllids captured during several years in and around infected strawberry fields was found to carry “P. fragariae.” Interestingly however, the “P. fragariae”
sequence could be easily detected in whiteflies proliferating on “P. fragariae”-infected strawberry plants under confined greenhouse conditions but not on control whiteflies, indicating that these insects can become infected with the bacterium.