A phytoplasma was initially detected in Dypsis poivriana by nested and real-time PCR from the botanical gardens in Cairns, Queensland, Australia in 2017. Further surveys in the Cairns region identified phytoplasma infections in eight additional dying ornamental palm species (Euterpe precatoria, Cocos nucifera, Verschaffeltia splendida, Brassiophoenix drymophloeodes, Burretiokentia hapala, Cyrtostachys renda, Reinhardtia gracilis, Carpoxylon macrospermum), a Phoenix species, a Euterpe species and two native palms (Archontophoenix alexandrae). Analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences showed that this phytoplasma is distinct as it shared less than 97.5 % similarity with all other ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ species. At 96.3 % similarity, the most closely related formally described member of the provisional 'Ca. Phytoplasma' genus was 'Ca. Phytoplasma noviguineense', a novel taxon from the island of New Guinea found in monocotyledonous plants. It was slightly more closely related (96.6–96.8 %) to four palm-infecting strains from the Americas, which belong to strain group 16SrIV and which have not been assigned to a formal 'Candidatus Phytoplasma’ species taxon. Phylogenetic analysis of the 16S rRNA gene and ribosomal protein genes of the phytoplasma isolate from a dying coconut palm revealed that the phytoplasma represented a distinct lineage within the phytoplasma clade. As the nucleotide identity with other phytoplasmas is less than 97.5 % and the phylogenetic analyses show that it is distinct, a novel taxon 'Candidatus Phytoplasma dypsidis' is proposed for the phytoplasma found in Australia. Strain RID7692 (GenBank accession no. MT536195) is the reference strain. The impact and preliminary aspects of the epidemiology of the disease outbreak associated with this novel taxon are described.
In Australia, Stylosanthes little leaf (StLL) phytoplasma has been detected in Stylosanthes scabra Vogel, Arachis pintoi Krapov, Saccharum officinarum L., Carica papaya L., Medicago sativa L., and Solanum tuberosum L. The 16S rRNA gene sequence of StLL phytoplasma strains from S. scabra, C. papaya, S. officinarum and S. tuberosum were compared and share 99.93–100 % nucleotide sequence identity. Phylogenetic comparisons between the 16S rRNA genes of StLL phytoplasma and other ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma’ species indicate that StLL represents a distinct phytoplasma lineage. It shares its most recent known ancestry with ‘Ca. Phytoplasma luffae’ (16SrVIII-A), with which it has 97.17–97.25 % nucleotide identity. In silico RFLP analysis of the 16S rRNA amplicon using iPhyClassifier indicate that StLL phytoplasmas have a unique pattern (similarity coefficient below 0.85) that is most similar to that of ‘Ca. Phytoplasma luffae’. The unique in silico RFLP patterns were confirmed in vitro. Nucleotide sequences of genes that are more variable than the 16S rRNA gene, namely tuf (tu-elongation factor), secA (partial translocation gene), and the partial ribosomal protein (rp) gene operon (rps19-rpl22-rps3), produced phylogenetic trees with similar branching patterns to the 16S rRNA gene tree. Sequence comparisons between the StLL 16S rRNA spacer region confirmed previous reports of rrn interoperon sequence heterogeneity for StLL, where the spacer region of rrnB encodes a complete tRNA-Isoleucine gene and the rrnA spacer region does not. Together these results suggest that the Australian phytoplasma, StLL, is unique according to the International Organization for Mycoplasmology (IRPCM) recommendations. The novel taxon ‘Ca. Phytoplasma stylosanthis’ is proposed, with the most recent strain from a potato crop in Victoria, Australia, serving as the reference strain (deposited in the Victorian Plant Pathology Herbarium as VPRI 43683).