Ralstonia solanacearum strains from Martinique (French West Indies) exhibiting a new pathogenic potential.
We investigated a destructive pathogenic variant of the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum that was consistently isolated in Martinique (French West Indies). Since the 1960s, bacterial wilt of solanaceous crops in Martinique has been caused primarily by strains of R. solanacearum that belong to either phylotype I or phylotype II. Since 1999, anthurium shade houses have been dramatically affected by uncharacterized phylotype II strains that also affected a wide range of species, such as Heliconia caribaea, cucurbitaceous crops, and weeds. From 1989 to 2003, a total of 224 R. solanacearum isolates were collected and compared to 6 strains isolated in Martinique in the 1980s. The genetic diversity and phylogenetic position of selected strains from Martinique were assessed (multiplex PCRs, mutS and egl DNA sequence analysis) and compared to the genetic diversity and phylogenetic position of 32 reference strains covering the known diversity within the R. solanacearum species complex. Twenty-four representative isolates were tested for pathogenicity to Musa species (banana) and tomato, eggplant, and sweet pepper. Based upon both PCR and sequence analysis, 119 Martinique isolates from anthurium, members of the family Cucurbitaceae, Heliconia, and tomato, were determined to belong to a group termed phylotype II/sequevar 4 (II/4). While these strains cluster with the Moko disease-causing strains, they were not pathogenic to banana (NPB). The strains belonging to phylotype II/4NPB were highly pathogenic to tomato, eggplant, and pepper, were able to wilt the resistant tomato variety Hawaii7996, and may latently infect cooking banana. Phylotype II/4NPB constitutes a new pathogenic variant of R. solanacearum that has recently appeared in Martinique and may be latently prevalent throughout Caribbean and Central/South America.