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A survey of potential insect vectors of mountain pine proliferation decline phytoplasma in Curonian Spit, Lithuania.
* 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 2 , 2
1  Nature Research Centre LPP, USDA-ARS-MPPL
2  Nature Research Centre LPP
4  Vilnius University, Institute of Biosciences DZ
5  Finnish Environment Institute
6  Nature Research Centre LE


Mountain pine (Pinus mugo Turra), is a coniferous native to the highlands of central Europe. Our previous study has revealed that mountain pine proliferation decline (MPPD) disease in the Curonian Spit of Lithuania is caused by a ‘Candidatus phytoplasma pini’-related strain (16SrXXI-A). However, the insect vector of MPPD has not been identified. In this study, we conducted a survey to determine potential insect vectors of MPPD phytoplasma for three consecutive years (2016-2019). More than 1,000 insect samples were collected in four locations of the Curonian Spit. These insects were identified as belonging to six families and ten genera. The presence of phytoplasma in insect samples was examined by nested PCR using phytoplasma-specific primers (P1A/16S-SR and F2n/R2). Phytoplasmas were detected in Cinara (Cinara) pini (Scots pine aphid), Cinara (Cinara) piniphila and Cinara (Schizolachnus) pineti (Waxy grey pine needle aphid) insect samples. Subsequent RFLP analysis showed that the PCR-RFLP profile of these positive insect samples was consistent with that of the MPPD of diseased pine trees. These results suggest that C. (C.) pini, C. (C.) piniphila and C. (S.) pineti may be potential insect vectors of MPPD phytoplasma. The findings from this survey will provide useful information for the management of MPPD disease.

Keywords: Phytoplasma; insect host; ‘Ca. phytoplasma pini’; aphids; Cinara; Schizolachnus.