The rRNA locus of Perkinsus atlanticus from the clam Ruditapes decussatus cultivated on the Atlantic coast of Spain was cloned and sequenced. Sequences of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) from the rRNA locus were compared to sequences reported earlier for a P. atlanticus isolate from Portugal and to those from other Perkinsus species. The ITS1 sequence of the Spanish P. atlanticus isolate was identical to the Portuguese P. atlanticus sequence and had 76.6% identity to the ITS1 of Perkinsus marinus. The ITS2 sequence had 99.7% identity to the Portuguese P. atlanticus ITS2, 92.5% identity to the P. marinus ITS2, and 99.5% identity to the Perkinsus olseni ITS2. We report for first the time the small subunit (SSU) and nontranscribed spacer (NTS) of P. atlanticus. The P. atlanticus SSU sequence was 99.6% identical to that of an unidentified Perkinsus species from the Australian clam Anadara trapezia and 98.0% identical to that of P. marinus. Further, our results support the proposal that P. atlanticus, P. olseni, and the Perkinsus sp. from A. trapezia constitute a subgroup of Perkinsus species distributed in the Pacific and eastern Atlantic, different from P. marinus that is distributed along the western edge of the Atlantic. Based on the NTS sequence of P. atlanticus from Spain and the differences with P. marinus NTS (62.2% identity), we developed a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based diagnostic assay with a lowest limit of detection of 0.01 amol of cloned NTS DNA as assessed on ethidium bromide-stained agarose gels. Specificity of the PCR-based assay was tested with samples from the clams R. decussatus, Ruditapes philippinarum, and Venerupis pullastra collected in P. atlanticus-enzootic areas of Spain. The specificity and sensitivity demonstrated for this NTS-based PCR assay validate its use as a tool for assessment of P. atlanticus in molluscs.

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