RFLP analyses of 16S rDNA nested PCR products from 34 phytoplasma strains with 17 restriction enzymes delineated distinct pattern types. Based on similarity coefficients derived from RFLP analyses, the 34 representative phytoplasma strains were differentiated into 14 major groups (termed 16Sr groups) and 32 sub-groups. The similarity coefficients of RFLP patterns between distinct groups were 90% or below. By including additional groups and sub-groups from which RFLP analyses were not performed but for which 16S rDNA sequence data were available to predict restriction sites, a total of 14 groups and 41 sub-groups were proposed. By combined RFLP analyses of 16S rRNA and ribosomal protein gene sequences, thus far, a total of 46 subgroups have been recognized. The phytoplasma 16Sr groups were consistent with the phylogenetic groups (subclades) defined by phylogenetic analysis of near-full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences, indicating that the RFLP-based groups are phylogenetically valid. The approach using RFLP analyses of PCR-amplified 16S rDNA (and ribosomal protein gene sequences) provides a simple, reliable and rapid means for differentiation and classification of unknown phytoplasmas.


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