The taxonomy and evolutionary relationships among members of the genus Xanthomonas associated with tomato and pepper have been a matter of considerable controversy since their original description in 1921. These bacteria, which are a major affliction of tomato and pepper crops in warm and humid regions, were originally described as a single species, but subsequent research has shown the existence of at least two genetic groups differentiated by physiological, biochemical and pathological characteristics. This work synthesizes the findings from several approaches, including pathogenicity tests, enzymic activity, restriction fragment analysis of the entire genome, DNA-DNA hybridization and RNA sequence comparisons based on a 2097 base sequence comprising the 16S rRNA gene, the intergenic spacer located between the 16S and 23S rRNA genes and a small region of the 23S rRNA gene. Within the group of xanthomonads pathogenic on pepper and tomato four distinct phenotypic groups exist, of which three form distinct genomic species. These include Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. vesicatoria (A and C group), Xanthomonas vesicatoria (B group) and Xanthomonas gardneri (D group). On the basis of phenotypic and genotypic differences between A- and C-group strains, the C strains should be considered as a subspecies within Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. vesicatoria.


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