The genetic relatedness of phytoplasmas associated with dieback (PDB), yellow crinkle (PYC) and mosaic (PM) diseases in papaya was studied by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of the 16S rRNA gene and 16S rRNA/23S rRNA spacer region (SR). RFLP and SR sequence comparisons indicated that PYC and PM phytoplasmas were identical and most closely related. to members of the faba bean phyllody strain cluster. By comparison the PDB phytoplasma was most closely related to Phormium yellow leaf (PYL) phytoplasma from New Zealand and the Australian grapevine yellows (AGY) phytoplasma from Australia. These three phytoplasmas cluster with the stolbur and German grapevine yellows (VK) phytoplasmas within the aster yellows strain cluster. Primers based on the phytoplasma tuf gene, which amplify gene products from members of the AY strain cluster, also amplified a DNA product from the PDB phytoplasma but not from either the PYC or:PM phytoplasmas. Primers deduced from the 16S rRNA/SR selectively amplified rDNA sequences from the PDB and AGY phytoplasmas but not from other members of the stolbur strain cluster. Similarly, primers designed from 16S rRNA/SR amplified rDNA from the PYC and PM phytoplasmas but not from the PDB phytoplasma. These primers may provide for more specific detection of these pathogens in epidemiological studies.