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.
AbstractBois noir, a disease of the grapevine yellows complex, is associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ and transmitted to grapevines in open fields by the cixiids Hyalesthes obsoletus and Reptalus panzeri. In vine-growing areas where the population density of these vectors is low within the vineyard, the occurrence of bois noir implies the existence of alternative vectors. The aim of this study was to identify alternative vectors through screening of the Auchenorrhyncha community, phytoplasma typing by stamp gene sequence analyses, and transmission trials. During field activities, conducted in Northern Italy in a vineyard where the bois noir incidence was extremely high, nine potential alternative insect vectors were identified according to high abundance in the vineyard agro-ecosystem, high infection rate, and harbouring phytoplasma strains characterized by stamp gene sequence variants found also in symptomatic grapevines. Transmission trials coupled with molecular analyses showed that at least eight species (Aphrodes makarovi, Dicranotropis hamata, Dictyophara europaea, Euscelis incisus, Euscelidius variegatus, Laodelphax striatella, Philaenus spumarius, and Psammotettix alienus/confinis) are alternative vectors of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ to grapevines. These novel findings highlight that bois noir epidemiology in vineyard agro-ecosystems is more complex than previously known, opening up new perspectives in the disease management.