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Pedrazzoli, Federico (2009) INVESTIGATIONS ON THE PSYLLID (HEMIPTERA: PSYLLIDAE)
VECTORS OF ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’ IN TRENTINO.
[Tesi di dottorato]

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Abstract (english)

Phytoplasmas are cell wall-less, phloem-limited and so far uncultured bacteria which are associated with plant diseases of large economic impact. They are transmitted in a persis-tent propagative manner by phloem feeding insects like leafhoppers, planthoppers and psyl-lids. ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’ is the etiological agent of apple proliferation (AP), a phytoplasma disease which may cause severe losses in many central-European apple grow-ing regions including Trentino. AP can affect the vigour of the apple trees and fruits of in-fected trees can not be commercialised because of their small size and poor taste. Two psyl-lid species (Cacopsylla picta and C. melanoneura) and a leafhopper (Fieberiella florii) have been demonstrated to be able to transmit ‘Ca. P. mali’. Whereas F. florii can be ex-cluded as important vector of the disease in Trentino, contradictory data have been reported for the role of the two psyllid species in the natural disease spread. This research had there-fore two specific aims: the study of the acquisition and transmission efficiencies of the two psyllid vectors and an analysis of the biology and genetics of populations of C. melanoneura applying bioassays and molecular tools.
The acquisition and transmission efficiency of the different developmental instars of the two psyllids were studied in three consecutive years in experiments under controlled condi-tions, in which individuals were fed on micropropagated infected plants and then moved onto healthy test plants. The minimum acquisition access periods were established for the overwintered adults. After each trial, the insects were analysed by real-time PCR in order to estimate the phytoplasma level within the individuals. The experiments demonstrated that, in spite of a good acquisition efficiency found in all the developmental instars of the two species, only the nymphal stages and the new generation adults of C. picta were able to transmit the disease to healthy test plants. These results can be explained by a higher per-centage of high-titre individuals found for C. picta but not for C. melanoneura. In contrast, overwintered adults of both species acquired the phytoplasma already after short acquisition access periods of one to four days, but no significant further multiplication after the acqui-sition was observed. Thus, these results revealed a relationship between the phytoplasma level in the individuals and their transmission efficiency and explain why C. picta is in Trentino a more efficient vector of AP than C. melanoneura.
Contradictory hypotheses have been proposed for the role of the oligophagous C. melanoneura in the epidemiology of AP. Therefore, the natural infection rate was studied by qualitative and quantitative PCR in overwintered adults collected from different plants (apple, hawthorn and conifers) in different areas (Trentino, Veneto, Aosta Valley and France). The analyses revealed different ratios of infected individuals among the different areas and even within the different areas of Trentino. Populations collected in northeastern Italy, where C. melanoneura was demonstrated to be an efficient vector, showed similar in-fection levels in samples collected from apple or hawthorn, while in Trentino only some populations captured on apple exhibited high natural infection rates. The presence of AP-infected individuals in samples collected on conifers demonstrates that the pathogen is re-tained within the insect body during winter. On the other hand, a positive correlation be-tween the infection rate and the incidence of the disease in apple orchards was found indi-cating an acquisition of the phytoplasma within the same season.
The effect of the infection of ‘Ca. P. mali’ in C. melanoneura was studied in bioassays conducted under controlled conditions. The experiments demonstrated a detrimental effect of ‘Ca. P. mali’ on the fitness of this psyllid species, affecting both the number of eggs laid and the hatching rate, whereas the survival of the overwintered adults and the development of the nymphal stages seemed not to be damaged. Detrimental effects of the pathogen on its vector may indicate a recent co-evolution between the phytoplasma and C. melanoneura as a vector.
As for C. melanoneura two different host plants (hawthorn and apple) are known, host-switching experiments were carried out to investigate the relationships between the psyllid and the two plant species. This study revealed that the two populations are dependent on their native host plant for egg laying and also for the development of the juvenile instars. A molecular approach was therefore applied to assess the genetic bases of these differences. The genetic variability of the populations was studied using microsatellite markers devel-oped for C. melanoneura and DNA sequences from the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I. Data obtained from microsatellite analyses indicate a low, but statistically signifi-cant difference between the ‘apple’ and the ‘hawthorn’ populations. Mitochondrial DNA diversity was too low to differentiate the two populations. Furthermore, a genetic boundary was found separating the Aosta Valley populations from the others. Behavioural and ge-netic results indicate a differentiation among C. melanoneura populations linked to the host plants.
In conclusion, C. picta was confirmed as most efficient vector of AP whereas the con-tradictory data reported previously for C. melanoneura could be attributed to the existence of different populations with different transmission efficiencies and to a lower multiplica-tion efficiency of the phytoplasma within the individuals of the Trentino population.

Abstract (italian)

I fitoplasmi sono batteri floematici privi di parete cellulare, non coltivabili in vitro, che possono indurre malattie alle piante e quindi gravi danni economici. Sono trasmessi in mo-do persistente propagativo da insetti fitomizi, come cicadellidi, cixiidi e psillidi. ‘Candida-tus Phytoplasma mali’ è l’agente eziologico degli scopazzi del melo (apple proliferation-AP), una malattia fitoplasmatica in grado di danneggiare molte regioni melicole dell’Europa centrale, incluso il Trentino. AP può alterare il vigore delle piante di melo e i frutti delle piante infette, a causa delle ridotte dimensioni e dello scarso sapore, perdono il loro valore commerciale. È stato dimostrato che due specie di psilla (Cacopsylla picta e C. melanoneura) ed una cicalina (Fieberiella florii) sono coinvolte nella trasmissione di ‘Ca. Phytoplasma mali’. Mentre il ruolo di F. florii nell’epidemiologia di AP in Trentino non sembra essere rilevante, i dati sul coinvolgimento delle due psille sono contraddittori. Que-sta ricerca ha avuto perciò due scopi precisi: lo studio dell’efficienza di acquisizione e tra-smissione nelle due psille e un approfondimento della biologia e delle differenze genetiche di popolazioni di C. melanoneura attraverso saggi biologici e mediante indagini molecolari.
L’efficienza di acquisizione e di trasmissione nei diversi stadi di sviluppo delle due psil-le sono state studiate durante tre anni consecutivi in esperimenti condotti in condizioni con-trollate, in cui gli individui sono stati posti su piantine di melo infette micropropagate e successivamente spostati su piantine sane. Per gli adulti svernanti è stato stabilito il minimo periodo di acquisizione utile per infettare gli insetti. Dopo ogni esperimento gli insetti sono stati analizzati singolarmente in real-time PCR per quantificarne il livello di fitoplasma. Dagli esperimenti è risultato che, nonostante la buona efficienza di acquisizione riscontrata in tutti gli stadi di sviluppo delle due specie, solo gli stadi ninfali e gli adulti di nuova gene-razione di C. picta erano in grado di trasmettere la malattia alle piantine sane. Questi risul-tati possono trovare una spiegazione nell’elevata percentuale di individui con un alto livello di fitoplasma riscontrata in C. picta rispetto a C. melanoneura. Al contrario, gli adulti sver-nanti di entrambe le specie hanno dimostrato di acquisire il fitoplasma in periodi di tempo brevi (1-4 giorni), ma dopo l’acquisizione non è stata osservata negli insetti una significati-va moltiplicazione del patogeno. Questi risultati hanno evidenziato una relazione tra il livel-lo di fitoplasma presente negli insetti e la loro efficienza di trasmissione, da cui si può spie-gare il perché C. picta, in Trentino, sia un vettore più efficiente di C. melanoneura.
Per quanto riguarda il ruolo di C. melanoneura, specie oligofaga, nell’epidemiologia di AP sono state avanzate differenti ipotesi, tra loro contrastanti. Per questo motivo è stato studiato mediante PCR qualitativa e quantitativa il livello di infezione naturale in adulti svernanti raccolti da diverse piante (melo, biancospino e conifere) in differenti aree geogra-fiche (Trentino, Veneto, Valle d’Aosta, Francia). Le analisi hanno rivelato che le percentua-li di individui infetti variano nelle diverse aree campionate e in Trentino persino in zone di-verse. Le popolazioni provenienti dall’Italia nord-occidentale, dove si è dimostrato che que-sta specie è un vettore efficiente, hanno mostrato livelli di infezione simili in campioni rac-colti su melo e su biancospino, mentre in Trentino solo alcune popolazioni, tra quelle rac-colte su melo, hanno mostrato elevate percentuali di individui infetti. La presenza del pato-geno in individui raccolti su conifere dimostra che esso si mantiene all’interno dell’insetto durante l’inverno. D’altra parte, la correlazione riscontrata tra la percentuale di individui in-fetti e l’incidenza della fitoplasmosi nei meleti indicherebbe che gli adulti svernanti posso-no acquisire il fitoplasma anche una volta giunti nel frutteto.
L’effetto dell’infezione di ‘Ca. Phytoplasma mali’ sulle psille è stato studiato mediante prove biologiche condotte con C. melanoneura, in condizioni controllate. Gli esperimenti hanno dimostrato un effetto negativo del patogeno sulla fitness di questa specie poiché il numero di uova deposte e il tasso di schiusura delle uova diminuivano, mentre la sopravvi-venza degli adulti svernanti e lo sviluppo degli stadi giovanili non sembravano danneggiati dalla presenza del fitoplasma. L’effetto negativo di un patogeno sul suo vettore è una pos-sibile indicazione di una recente co-evoluzione tra ‘Ca. Phytoplasma mali’ e C. melanoneu-ra.
Poiché per C. melanoneura sono note due piante ospite (biancospino e melo), sono stati condotti esperimenti di host-switching per indagare le relazioni tra la psilla e le due specie vegetali. Questo studio ha dimostrato che entrambe le popolazioni sono dipendenti dal loro ospite primario sia per l’oviposizione, sia per lo sviluppo degli stadi ninfali. Per questo mo-tivo è stato seguito un approccio molecolare per cercare di comprendere le basi genetiche di queste differenze. La variabilità genetica delle popolazioni è stata studiata mediante marker microsatelliti sviluppati per C. melanoneura e l’analisi delle sequenze del DNA mitocon-driale (subunità I della citocromo ossidasi). I dati derivanti dai microsatelliti indicano una piccola, ma significativa, differenza tra la popolazione proveniente da melo e quella prove-niente da biancospino. Le differenze nel DNA mitocondriale si sono rivelate troppo piccole per differenziare le due popolazioni. Inoltre è stata identificata una barriera genetica che se-para la popolazione della Valle d’Aosta da quelle di altre aree. Questi risultati di etologia e genetici indicano un differenziamento nelle popolazioni di C. melanoneura che è correlato alla pianta ospite.
In conclusione, C. picta è stata dimostrata come specie con la più elevata efficienza di tra-smissione di AP mentre i dati discordanti finora riportati per C. melanoneura, possono es-sere attribuiti all’esistenza di differenti popolazioni con differenti efficienze di trasmissione ed a una minore efficienza di moltiplicazione del fitoplasma all’interno delle popolazioni trentine.

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Tipo di EPrint:Tesi di dottorato
Relatore:Girolami, Vincenzo
Dottorato (corsi e scuole):Ciclo 20 > Scuole per il 20simo ciclo > SCIENZE DELLE PRODUZIONI VEGETALI > PROTEZIONE DELLE COLTURE
Data di deposito della tesi:29 January 2009
Anno di Pubblicazione:2009
Parole chiave:apple proliferation, Candidatus Phytoplasma mali, vectors, transmission, acquisition, Cacopsylla picta, Cacopsylla melanoneura
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 07 - Scienze agrarie e veterinarie > AGR/11 Entomologia generale e applicata
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Agronomia Ambientale e Produzioni Vegetali
Codice ID:1620
Depositato il:29 Jan 2009
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