Widespread occurrence of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma ulmi’ in elm species in Germany

Schneider et al. (2020). BMC Microbiology 20 (1)
Names (1)
Ca. Phytoplasma ulmi
Microbiology Microbiology (medical)
Abstract Background ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma ulmi’ is the agent associated with elm yellows and has been categorised in the European Union as a quarantine pathogen. For central and northern European countries, information on the occurrence and distribution of the pathogen and its impact on elms is scarce, so a survey of native elm trees has been conducted in Germany. Results About 6500 samples from Ulmus minor, Ulmus laevis and Ulmus glabra, were collected nationwide. Phytoplasma detection was performed by applying a universal 16Sr DNA-based quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay and a novel ‘Ca. P. ulmi’ specific qPCR assay targeting the 16S–23S spacer region. Both assays revealed that 28% of the samples were infected by ‘Ca. P. ulmi’, but infection rates of the elm species and regional incidences differed. The phytoplasma presence in the trees was not correlated to disease-specific symptoms. The survey identified a regional disparity of infection which was high in east, south and central Germany, whereas only a few infected sites were found in the western and northern parts of the country. Monitoring the seasonal titre of ‘Ca. P. ulmi’ in an infected tree by qPCR revealed a high colonisation in all parts of the tree throughout the year. Conclusions ‘Ca. P. ulmi’ is widely present in elms in Germany. The rare occurrence of symptoms indicates either a high degree of tolerance in elm populations or a low virulence of pathogen strains enabling high infection rates in a long-living host.
Publication date