The pigeon pea witches’-broom phytoplasma group (16SrIX) comprises diverse strains that cause numerous diseases in leguminous trees and herbaceous crops, vegetables, a fruit, a nut tree and a forest tree. At least 14 strains have been reported worldwide. Comparative phylogenetic analyses of the highly conserved 16S rRNA gene and the moderately conserved rplV (rpl22)–rpsC (rps3) and secY genes indicated that the 16SrIX group consists of at least six distinct genetic lineages. Some of these lineages cannot be readily differentiated based on analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences alone. The relative genetic distances among these closely related lineages were better assessed by including more variable genes [e.g. ribosomal protein (rp) and secY genes]. The present study demonstrated that virtual RFLP analyses using rp and secY gene sequences allowed unambiguous identification of such lineages. A coding system is proposed to designate each distinct rp and secY subgroup in the 16SrIX group.
The diversity of 71 rhizobial strains belonging to the genus Ensifer , isolated from root nodules of woody legumes growing in southern Ethiopia, was studied using multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) and phenotypic approaches. Phylogenetic analyses based on core genes revealed that 43 strains were clustered in seven distinct and consistent positions (genospecies I–VII), while another 25 strains were also distinct but were discrepant in their placement on the different gene trees. The remaining three strains occupied the same phylogenetic branches as defined Ensifer species and thus were not distinct. Irrespective of their chromosomal background, the majority of the test strains were highly related with respect to their nifH and nodC gene sequences, suggesting that these symbionts might have acquired these genes recently from a common origin. On the nifH phylogenetic tree, the branch containing the test strains and reference species isolated from woody legumes in Africa was clearly separate from those isolated outside the continent, suggesting that these symbionts have a long history of separate evolution within Ensifer for this gene. A cross-inoculation study showed that our strains were capable of eliciting effective nodulation on the homologous host and on other host species. This suggests a potential to improve nitrogen fixation by selecting for broad-host-range inoculants. Our study confirms the presence of a wide diversity of Ensifer in East Africa and, while contributing to the general knowledge of the biodiversity within the genus, also highlights the need to focus on previously less-well-explored biogeographical regions to unravel as-yet-unidentified rhizobial resources.