The agent associated with blue dwarf disease in wheat represents a new phytoplasma taxon, ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma tritici’

Zhao et al. (2021). International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 71 (1)
Names (2)
Ca. Phytoplasma tritici Ca. Phytoplasma asteris
Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics General Medicine Microbiology
Wheat blue dwarf (WBD) is one of the most economically damaging cereal crop diseases in northwestern PR China. The agent associated with the WBD disease is a phytoplasma affiliated with the aster yellows (AY) group, subgroup C (16SrI-C). Since phytoplasma strains within the AY group are ecologically and genetically diverse, it has been conceived that the AY phytoplasma group may consist of more than one species. This communication presents evidence to demonstrate that, while each of the two 16 rRNA genes of the WBD phytoplasma shares >97.5 % sequence similarity with that of the ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris’ reference strain, the WBD phytoplasma clearly represents an ecologically separated lineage: the WBD phytoplasma not only has its unique transmitting vector (Psammotettix striatus) but also elicits a distinctive symptom in its predominant plant host (wheat). In addition, the WBD phytoplasma possesses molecular characteristics that further manifest its significant divergence from ‘Ca. P. asteris’. Such molecular characteristics include lineage-specific antigenic membrane proteins and a lower than 95 % genome-wide average nucleotide identity score with ‘Ca. P. asteris’. These ecological, molecular and genomic evidences justify the recognition of the WBD phytoplasma as a novel taxon, ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma tritici’.
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