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Screening potential insect vectors in a museum biorepository reveals undiscovered diversity of plant pathogens in natural areas
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  • Valeria Trivellone,
  • Wei Wei,
  • Luisa Filippin,
  • Christopher Dietrich
Valeria Trivellone
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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Wei Wei
USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
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Luisa Filippin
CREA Centro di Ricerca Viticoltura e Enologia
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Christopher Dietrich
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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Abstract

Phytoplasmas (Mollicutes, Acholeplasmataceae), vector-borne obligate bacterial plant-parasites, infect nearly 1,000 plant species and unknown numbers of insects, mainly leafhoppers (Hemiptera, Deltocephalinae), which play a key role in transmission and epidemiology. Although the plant-phytoplasma-insect association has been evolving for >300 million years, nearly all known phytoplasmas have been discovered as a result of the damage inflicted by phytoplasma diseases on crops. Few efforts have been made to study phytoplasmas occurring in non-economically important plants in natural habitats. In this study, a sub-sample of leafhopper specimens preserved in a large museum biorepository was analyzed to unveil potential new associations. PCR screening for phytoplasmas performed on 227 phloem-feeding leafhoppers collected worldwide from natural habitats revealed the presence of 6 different previously unknown phytoplasma strains. This indicates that museum collections of herbivorous insects represent a rich and largely untapped resource for discovery of new plant pathogens, that natural areas worldwide harbor a diverse but largely undiscovered diversity of phytoplasmas and potential insect vectors, and that independent epidemiological cycles occur in such habitats, posing a potential threat of disease spillover into agricultural systems. Larger-scale future investigations will contribute to a better understanding of phytoplasma genetic diversity, insect host range, and insect-borne phytoplasma transmission and provide an early warning for the emergence of new phytoplasma diseases across global agroecosystems.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

16 Feb 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
17 Feb 2021Submission Checks Completed
17 Feb 2021Assigned to Editor
19 Feb 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
02 Mar 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
09 Mar 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
12 Mar 20211st Revision Received
13 Mar 2021Submission Checks Completed
13 Mar 2021Assigned to Editor
13 Mar 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
15 Mar 2021Editorial Decision: Accept