Polyphasic Characterization of Acidovorax citrulli Strains Originating from Serbia
Acidovorax citrulli, the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch (BFB), is an economically important pathogen of watermelon and related plant species worldwide. In the period 2014–2018, several outbreaks of BFB were observed in major watermelon production regions in Serbia. A total of 43 strains, isolated from symptomatic watermelon tissue, were analyzed by biochemical, pathogenic and molecular tests. Based on the phenotypic characteristics, PCR assay, and 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis, all strains were identified as A. citrulli. A multilocus sequence analysis of the four housekeeping (adk, gyrB, pilT and gltA) and three virulence genes (Aave_1548, avrRx01 and luxR) revealed that studied A. citrulli strains represent the homogeneous population and they clustered together with group II reference strain AAC00-1. Strain affiliation to group II was confirmed by PCR based on the putative type III secretion effector gene and by duplex PCR test. High homogeneity of studied strains was also confirmed by BOX-PCR. Differences were observed for two strains in their pathogenicity as well as susceptibility to copper compounds. Moreover, six major watermelon varieties grown in Serbia showed high sensitivity to the pathogen, while cross inoculation assay revealed that the strains were able to infect other species within the Cucurbitaceae family.