The diversity of the Frankia strains that are naturally in symbiosis with plants belonging to the Gymnostoma genus in New Caledonia was investigated. A direct molecular characterization of DNA extracted from nodules was performed, followed by characterization by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) of the ribosomal rrs–rrl (16S–23S) intergenic spacer (IGS) polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-amplified region. Seventeen different patterns were identified among the 358 microsymbiotic strains studied in the eight species of host plant present in New Caledonia. This genotypical approach permitted us to show that a large diversity existed among the patterns and that these did not exhibit a strict specificity to any host-plant species comparable with that previously found in the Casuarina and Allocasuarina symbioses in Australia. Despite this lack of specificity, a correspondence analysis nevertheless showed that the distribution of these patterns was related to soil type and to host-plant species. Furthermore, several Frankia strains were exclusively associated with the ultramafic soils.
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