The ability to detect, quantify, and differentiate nonculturable mycoplasma-like organisms (MLOs) would greatly facilitate epidemiological and taxonomical studies of this unique group of plant and insect pathogens. DNA isolated from extracts of insects infected with the Western X-disease MLO was cloned in Escherichia coli. X-disease-specific clones, when labeled and used as probes, readily detected X-disease MLOs in infected plants and insects but did not hybridize with DNA from healthy plants or insects, or from several other plant pathogenic MLOs or spiroplasmas. These methods provide both a sensitive diagnostic tool and a basis for genetically differentiating MLOs.
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