Epidemiological Investigations and Molecular Characterization of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ in Grapevines, Weeds, Vectors and Putative Vectors in Western Sicily (Southern Italy)

Conigliaro et al. (2020). Pathogens 9 (11)
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General Immunology and Microbiology Immunology and Allergy Infectious Diseases Microbiology (medical) Molecular Biology
Bois noir is caused by ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’, and it is one of the most important and widespread diseases in the Euro-Mediterranean region. There are complex interactions between phytoplasma and grapevines, weeds, and vectors. These ecological relationships can be tracked according to molecular epidemiology. The aims of the 2-year study (2014–2015) were to describe incidence and spatial distribution of Bois noir in a vineyard with three grapevine varieties in Sicily, and to identify the molecular types of the tuf and vmp1 genes in these naturally infected grapevines, according to the potential reservoir plants and vectors. Disease incidence in 2015 was significantly higher in ‘Chardonnay’ (up to 35%) than for ‘Nero d’Avola’ and ‘Pinot noir’ (<5%). All grapevine, weed, and insect samples were infected by ‘Ca. P. solani’ tuf-type b. Most of the collected insects were strictly related to Vitis spp. and belonged to Neoaliturus fenestratus, Empoasca spp., and Zygina rhamni. The characterization of the vmp1 gene revealed six different vmp types in grapevines (V1, V4, V9, V11, V12, V24), three in weeds (V4, V9, V11), and four in insects (V4, V9, V11, V24). Notably, V4, V9, appear both in hosts and vectors, with V9 predominant. Virtual restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis based on the nucleotide sequences supported the data of the conventional RFLP. Connections between the molecular data recorded in the vineyard ecosystems and the application of innovative tools based on the geostatistical analysis will contribute to further clarification of the specific ecological and epidemiological aspects of ‘Ca. P. solani’ in Sicily.
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