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Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 2013 Oct;63(Pt 10):3904-14. doi: 10.1099/ijs.0.051912-0.

Evaluation of the DNA-dependent RNA polymerase β-subunit gene (rpoB) for phytoplasma classification and phylogeny.

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  • 1Phytovirus Laboratory, Institute of Botany, Nature Research Centre, Akademijos g. 2, Vilnius LT-08412, Lithuania.


Phytoplasmas are classified into 16Sr groups and subgroups and 'Candidatus Phytoplasma' species, largely or entirely based on analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences. Yet, distinctions among closely related 'Ca. Phytoplasma' species and strains based on 16S rRNA genes alone have limitations imposed by the high degree of rRNA nucleotide sequence conservation across diverse phytoplasma lineages and by the presence in a phytoplasma genome of two, sometimes sequence-heterogeneous, copies of the 16S rRNA gene. Since the DNA-dependent RNA polymerase (DpRp) β-subunit gene (rpoB) exists as a single copy in the phytoplasma genome, we explored the use of rpoB for phytoplasma classification and phylogenetic analysis. We sequenced a clover phyllody (CPh) phytoplasma genetic locus containing ribosomal protein genes, a complete rpoB gene and a partial rpoC gene encoding the β'-subunit of DpRp. Primers and reaction conditions were designed for PCR-mediated amplification of rpoB gene fragments from diverse phytoplasmas. The rpoB gene sequences from phytoplasmas classified in groups 16SrI, 16SrII, 16SrIII, 16SrX and 16SrXII were subjected to sequence similarity and phylogenetic analyses. The rpoB gene sequences were more variable than 16S rRNA gene sequences, more clearly distinguishing among phytoplasma lineages. Phylogenetic trees based on 16S rRNA and rpoB gene sequences had similar topologies, and branch lengths in the rpoB tree facilitated distinctions among closely related phytoplasmas. Virtual RFLP analysis of rpoB gene sequences also improved distinctions among closely related lineages. The results indicate that the rpoB gene provides a useful additional marker for phytoplasma classification that should facilitate studies of disease aetiology and epidemiology.

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