Genetic Variation Among Geographically Disparate Isolates of Aster Yellows Phytoplasma in the Contiguous United States.

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Aster Yellows phytoplasma (AYp; Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris) is associated with diseases of herbaceous plants, including ornamentals and important commercial vegetable and grain crops. The aster leafhopper (ALH; Macrosteles quadrilineatus Forbes) is the predominant vector of these bacteria, though other leafhopper species can acquire and transmit AYp. Potentially inoculative leafhoppers are reported to overwinter in the southern United States and migrate to northern latitudes in the spring. Examining the genetic similarities and differences in AYp associated with southern and northern populations of ALH may provide insight into the role that migrating ALH play in AYp disease development. To investigate similarities among geographically distinct populations of ALH and characterize the variation in AYp associated within these populations, we identified genetic variations in subgroup designation and the relative proportions of secreted AY-WB proteins from field-collected populations of AYp isolated from ALH from select locations in the southern (Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) and the northern United States (Wisconsin) in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Isolated phytoplasma were tested for variation of AYp genotypes, numbers of potentially inoculative (AYp-positive) ALH, and presence of specific AYp virulence (effector) genes. Geographically distinct populations of ALH collected in northern and southern regions were similar in CO1 genotype but carried different proportions of AYp genotypes. While similar AYp strains were detected in geographically distinct locations, the proportion of each genotype varied over time.