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Plant Pathology and Microbiology

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Erwinia tracheiphila, the causal pathogen of bacterial wilt of cucurbit crops, is disseminated by cucumber beetles. A bacteriophage, designated FBB1, was isolated from spotted cucumber beetles (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) that were collected from a field where E. tracheiphila is endemic. FBB1 was classified into the Myoviridae family based on its morphology, which includes an elongated icosahedral head (106 × 82 nm) and a putatively contractile tail (120 nm). FBB1 infected all 62 E. tracheiphila strains examined and also three Pantoea spp. strains. FBB1 virions were stable at 55°C for 1 h and tolerated a pH range from 3 to 12. FBB1 has a genome of 175,994 bp with 316 predicted coding sequences and a GC content of 36.5%. The genome contains genes for a major bacterial outer-membrane protein, a putative exopolysaccharide depolymerase, and 22 predicted tRNAs. The morphology and genome indicate that FBB1 is a T4-like virus and thus in the Tevenvirinae subfamily. FBB1 is the first virulent phage of E. tracheiphila to be reported, and to date, is one of only two bacteriophages to be isolated from insect vectors of phytopathogens. Collectively, the results support FBB1 as a promising candidate for biocontrol of E. tracheiphila based on its virulent (lytic) rather than lysogenic lifestyle, its infection of all E. tracheiphila strains examined to date, and its infection of a few non-pathogenic bacteria that could be used to support phage populations when pathogen numbers are low.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Fu, Benzhong, Yingyan Zhai, Mark L. Gleason, and Gwyn A. Beattie. "Characterization of Erwinia tracheiphila bacteriophage FBB1 isolated from spotted cucumber beetles that vector E. tracheiphila." Phytopathology (2021). doi:10.1094/PHYTO-03-21-0093-R. Posted with permission.

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The American Phytopathological Society



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