Identification of phytoplasmas representing multiple new genetic lineages from phloem‐feeding leafhoppers highlights the diversity of phytoplasmas and their potential vectors

Wei Wei, Valeria Trivellone, Christopher H. Dietrich, Yan Zhao, Kristi D. Bottner‐parker, Algirdas Ivanauskas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Phytoplasmas are obligate transkingdom bacterial parasites that infect a variety of plant species and replicate in phloem‐feeding insects in the order Hemiptera, mainly leafhoppers (Cicadellidae). The insect capacity in acquisition, transmission, survival, and host range directly determines the epidemiology of phytoplasmas. However, due to the difficulty of insect sampling and the lack of follow‐up transmission trials, the confirmed phytoplasma insect hosts are still lim-ited compared with the identified plant hosts. Recently, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)‐based quick screening of 227 leafhoppers collected in natural habitats unveiled the presence of previously unknown phytoplasmas in six samples. In the present study, 76 leafhoppers, including the six prescreened positive samples, were further examined to identify and characterize the phytoplasma strains by semi‐nested PCR. A total of ten phytoplasma strains were identified in leaf-hoppers from four countries including South Africa, Kyrgyzstan, Australia, and China. Based on virtual restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis, these ten phytoplasma strains were classified into four distinct ribosomal (16Sr) groups (16SrI, 16SrIII, 16SrXIV, and 16SrXV), representing five new subgroups (16SrI‐AO, 16SrXIV‐D, 16SrXIV‐E, 16SrXIV‐F, and 16SrXV‐C). The results strongly suggest that the newly identified phytoplasma strains not only represent new genetic subgroup lineages, but also extend previously undiscovered geographical distributions. In addition, ten phytoplasma‐harboring leafhoppers belonged to seven known leafhopper species, none of which were previously reported insect vectors of phytoplasmas. The findings from this study provide fresh insight into genetic diversity, geographical distribution, and insect host range of phytoplasmas. Further transmission trials and screening of new potential host plants and weed reservoirs in areas adjacent to collection sites of phytoplasma harboring leafhoppers will contribute to a better understanding of phytoplasma transmission and epidemiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number352
JournalPathogens
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Genetic lineage
  • IPhyClassifier
  • Insect‐borne plant pathogens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Biology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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