Multilocus sequence typing reveals the presence of three distinct flavescence dorée phytoplasma genetic clusters in Croatian vineyards.
Flavescence dorée phytoplasma (FDp) is a quarantine pathogen associated with a severe and epidemic grapevine yellows disease representing a great threat for grapevine cultivation in Europe. An increase in disease spread prompted efforts to identify FDp strains in Croatia. Over 800 samples of grapevine together with presumed reservoir plants and almost 400 samples of Scaphoideus titanus and other potential vectors were collected countrywide and analysed. FDp isolates were characterized by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) of map, secY and uvrB-degV genes in order to determine genetic diversity and structure of FDp populations, and to trace transmission pathways. FD-related phytoplasmas were found in Croatia for the first time in alder, the invasive tree species Ailanthus altissima and leafhopper Phlogotettix cyclops. Phylogenetic analysis revealed the presence of three mapFD strain clusters: mapFD1, mapFD2 and mapFD3, and for the first time in Croatia a case of Palatinate grapevine yellows strain A (PGY-A). In total, 7 different map, 10 secY and 11 uvrB-degV genotypes were detected. The identification of 15 comprehensive FDp genotypes based on MLST suggests separate routes for disease introduction and propagation origins in Croatia. Moreover, high genetic variability of Croatian isolates indicates a complex ecological cycle of FDp involving various hosts.