First author: Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service-USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705; second author: Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4203
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Accepted for publication 18 September 1998.
Many plant diseases believed to be caused by phytoplasmas were described before phytoplasma groups were delineated through molecular analyses. It is now possible to assess the relationships between phytoplasma identity or classification and specific plant diseases. Data were consistent with the hypothesis of a common ancestral origin of pathogenicity genes in many phytoplasmas and a limited repertoire of plant responses to certain pathogen signals. Observations also were consistent with the hypotheses that the botanical host ranges of some phytoplasmas reflect specificities in transmission by vectors and vector feeding preferences; phytoplasma-insect vector relationships are keys to understanding evolutionary divergence of phytoplasma lineages; small differences in a highly conserved phytoplasma gene may be regarded as potential indicators of separate gene pools; the reliability of a diagnosis based on symptoms must be learned empirically (i.e., through case study for each syndrome); and some discrete diseases can be ascribed to phytoplasma taxa at the 16S rRNA group level, whereas others are clearly associated with phytoplasma taxa below this level.
The American Phytopathological Society, 1998