Evolutionary dynamics of Ralstonia solanacearum.
We investigated the genetic diversity, extent of recombination, natural selection, and population divergence of Ralstonia solanacearum samples obtained from sources worldwide. This plant pathogen causes bacterial wilt in many crops and constitutes a serious threat to agricultural production due to its very wide host range and aggressiveness. Five housekeeping genes, dispersed around the chromosome, and three virulence-related genes, located on the megaplasmid, were sequenced from 58 strains belonging to the four major phylogenetic clusters (phylotypes). Whereas genetic variation is high and consistent for all housekeeping loci studied, virulence-related gene sequences are more diverse. Phylogenetic and statistical analyses suggest that this organism is a highly diverse bacterial species containing four major, deeply separated evolutionary lineages (phylotypes I to IV) and a weaker subdivision of phylotype II into two subgroups. Analysis of molecular variations showed that the geographic isolation and spatial distance have been the significant determinants of genetic variation between phylotypes. R. solanacearum displays high clonality for housekeeping genes in all phylotypes (except phylotype III) and significant levels of recombination for the virulence-related egl and hrpB genes, which are limited mainly to phylotype strains III and IV. Finally, genes essential for species survival are under purifying selection, and those directly involved in pathogenesis might be under diversifying selection.