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J Nematol. Jun 2003; 35(2): 198–207.
PMCID: PMC2620627

Pasteuria spp.: Systematics and Phylogeny of These Bacterial Parasites of Phytopathogenic Nematodes


Pasteuria spp. include endospore-forming bacterial pathogens of cladoceran crustaceans and plant-parasitic nematodes. Propagation of these nematode pathogens requires attachment of soilborne endospores to nematode hosts, infection, growth, sporulation, and release of endospores to repeat the cycle of infection and propagation. The ability of these bacteria to suppress the levels of plant-parasitic nematodes in the field has made them particularly promising candidates for biocontrol of nematode diseases of plants. Genes encoding 16S ribosomal RNA have been sequenced for the cladoceran (water flea) parasite and type species, Pasteuria ramosa, and for Pasteuria spp. isolated from root-knot (Meloidogyne arenaria race 1 and Meloidogyne sp.), soybean cyst (Heterodera glycines), and sting (Belonolaimus longicaudatus) nematodes. These have provided a phylogenetic basis for their designation to a distinct clade within the family Alicyclobacillaceae of the gram-positive endospore-forming bacteria. Two apparent biotypes of P. penetrans demonstrating a host preference for different Meloidogyne spp. showed identical 16S rDNA sequences, suggesting host-recognition evolves within a given species. The sequences of genes encoding sporulation transcription factors, sigE and sigF, from P. penetrans biotype P-20 show different phylogenetic relationships to other endospore-forming bacteria, supporting their application to further discriminate Pasteuria spp. and biotypes. Distribution of an adhesin-associated epitope on polypeptides from different Pasteuria isolates provides an immunochemical approach to differentiate species and biotypes with specific host preferences. Application of bioinformatics to genomic data, as well as further characterization of the biochemical basis for host recognition, will facilitate development of Pasteuria spp. as benign alternatives to chemical nematicides.

Keywords: biological control, cladocerans, endospore, Meloidogyne arenaria, nematode, Pasteuria penetrans, Pasteuria ramosa, phylogeny

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