Temporal and Spatial Scaling of the Genetic Structure of a Vector-Borne Plant Pathogen
The ecology of plant pathogens of perennial crops is affected by the long-lived nature of their immobile hosts. In addition, changes to the genetic structure of pathogen populations may affect disease epidemiology and management practices; examples include local adaptation of more fit genotypes or introduction of novel genotypes from geographically distant areas via human movement of infected plant material or insect vectors. We studied the genetic structure of Xylella fastidiosa populations causing disease in sweet orange plants in Brazil at multiple scales using fast-evolving molecular markers (simple-sequence DNA repeats). Results show that populations of X. fastidiosa were regionally isolated, and that isolation was maintained for populations analyzed a decade apart from each other. However, despite such geographic isolation, local populations present in year 2000 were largely replaced by novel genotypes in 2009 but not as a result of migration. At a smaller spatial scale (individual trees), results suggest that isolates within plants originated from a shared common ancestor. In summary, new insights on the ecology of this economically important plant pathogen were obtained by sampling populations at different spatial scales and two different time points.