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.
Psyllids are plant sap-feeding insects that harbor prokaryotic endosymbionts in specialized cells within the body cavity. Four-kilobase DNA fragments containing 16S and 23S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) were amplified from the primary (P) endosymbiont of 32 species of psyllids representing three psyllid families and eight subfamilies. In addition, 0.54-kb fragments of the psyllid nuclear gene
were also amplified from 26 species. Phylogenetic trees derived from 16S-23S rDNA and from the host
gene are very similar, and tests of compatibility of the data sets show no significant conflict between host and endosymbiont phylogenies. This result is consistent with a single infection of a shared psyllid ancestor and subsequent cospeciation of the host and the endosymbiont. In addition, the phylogenies based on DNA sequences generally agreed with psyllid taxonomy based on morphology. The 3′ end of the 16S rDNA of the P endosymbionts differs from that of other members of the domain
in the lack of a sequence complementary to the mRNA ribosome binding site. The rate of sequence change in the 16S-23S rDNA of the psyllid P endosymbiont was considerably higher than that of other bacteria, including other fast-evolving insect endosymbionts. The lineage consisting of the P endosymbionts of psyllids was given the designation
Carsonella (gen. nov.) with a single species,
Carsonella ruddii (sp. nov.).