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Characterisation of Pectobacterium wasabiae and Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum isolates from diseased potato plants in Finland



Dr M. Pirhonen, Department of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 27, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. Email:


To identify bacteria causing soft rot and blackleg in potato in Finland, pectinolytic enterobacteria were isolated from diseased potato stems and tubers. In addition to isolates identified as Pectobacterium atrosepticum and Dickeya sp., many of the isolated strains were identified as Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum. Phylogenetic analysis and biochemical tests indicated that one of the isolates from potato stems resembled Pectobacterium wasabiae. Furthermore, two blackleg-causing P. carotovorum strains recently isolated in Europe clustered with P. wasabiae, suggesting that at least some of these isolates were originally misidentified. All the other Finnish P. carotovorum isolates resembled the subsp. carotovorum type strain in biochemical tests but could be clustered into two distinct groups in the phylogenetic analysis. One of the groups mainly contained strains isolated from diseased tubers, whereas the other mainly included isolates from potato stems. In contrast to the tuber isolates, the stem isolates lacked genes in Type III secretion genes, were not able to elicit a hypersensitive response in tobacco leaves and produced only small amounts of autoinducers in the stationary phase in vitro. P. wasabiae isolate was able to cause similar amount of blackleg-like symptoms as P. atrosepticum in a field experiment with vacuum-infiltrated tubers, whereas both P. atrosepticum and P. carotovorum isolates reduced emergence and delayed growth more than P. wasabiae. Our findings confirm the presence of P. wasabiae in Finland and show that the Finnish P. carotovorum subsp. carotovorum isolates can be divided into two groups with specific characteristics and possibly also different ecologies.

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