The Importance of Multilocus Sequence Typing: Cautionary Tales from the Bacterium Xylella fastidiosa
Microbial identification methods have evolved rapidly over the last few decades. One such method is multilocus sequence typing (MLST). MLST is a powerful tool for understanding the evolutionary dynamics of pathogens and to gain insight into their genetic diversity. We illustrate the importance of accurate typing by reporting on three problems that have arisen in the study of a single bacterial species, the plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa. Two of these were particularly serious since they concerned contamination of important research material that has had detrimental consequences for Xylella research: the contamination of DNA used in the sequencing of an X. fastidiosa genome (Ann-1) with DNA from another X. fastidiosa strain, and the unrecognized mislabeling of a strain (Temecula1) distributed from a culture collection (ATCC). We advocate the routine use of MLST to define strains maintained in culture collections and emphasize the importance of confirming the purity of DNA submitted for sequencing. We also present a third example that illustrates the value of MLST in guiding the choice of taxonomic types. Beyond these situations, there is a strong case for MLST whenever an isolate is used experimentally, especially where genotypic differences are suspected to influence the outcome.