During a survey in 2003, safflower plants (Carthamus tinctorius) with phyllody symptoms were observed in production fields in several districts of Fars and Yazd provinces in Iran. Affected plants showed floral virescence, phyllody, proliferation of axillary buds, and little leaf symptoms. Incidence of the disease was less than 10%. Direct and nested PCR assays were used to verify association of phytoplasma with the disease. Total DNA was extracted from fresh, fine roots of eight phyllody-affected safflower plants and one symptomless plant. With phytoplasma universal primer pair P1/P7 (5′-AAGAGTTTGATCCTGGCTCAGGATT-3′/5′-CGTCCTTCATCGGCTCTT-3′), target DNA fragments of approximately 1.8 kb were amplified by direct PCR from phyllody-affected plants and Iranian cabbage yellows (ICY) phytoplasma used as a positive control. Reamplification of P1/P7 products with 16S rRNA gene primer pair R16F2n/R16R2 (5′-GAAACGACTGCTAAGACTGG-3′/5′-TGACGGGCGGTGTGTACAAACCCCG-3′) yielded fragments of the expected size (1.2 kb) from all eight diseased plants and the ICY-positive control. No products were amplified from the symptomless plant by either assay. R16F2n/R16R2 products were subjected to restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis by separate digestion with AluI, HaeIII, HhaI, HinfI, HpaII, MseI, RsaI, Sau3AI, or TaqI endonuclease. Comparison of resulting RFLP patterns with published patterns of other phytoplasmas (2) tentatively identified safflower phyllody (SP) phytoplasma as a member of clover proliferation group 16SrVI, subgroup C. HhaI digests also differentiated SP from ICY phytoplasma, a previously reported subgroup 16SrVI-A strain (3). After sequencing of the 16S rDNA fragment (GenBank Accession No. DQ88948), a BLAST search determined that SP phytoplasma shared closest homology with 16SrVI group members (‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’) and related strains (4). Furthermore, phylogenetic analysis of 16S rDNA sequences revealed SP phytoplasma to be most similar (99.7%) to brinjal little leaf (BLL) phytoplasma (GenBank Accession No. X83431). Analysis of putative restriction sites in 16S rRNA gene sequences revealed that SP and BLL shared identical restriction profiles and that both differed from the ‘Ca. Phytoplasma trifolii’ reference strain (GenBank Accession No. AY390261) because of the absence of a single HhaI site and the presence of an additional MseI site. Although safflower phyllody disease has been previously reported in Israel, the associated phytoplasma was classified as a strain of the aster yellows subgroup 16SrI-B (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of safflower as a host of a ‘Ca. Phytoplasma trifolii’-related strain. References: (1) M. Klein. Plant Dis. Rep. 54:735, 1970. (2) I.-M. Lee et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 54:1037, 2004. (3) M. Salehi et al. Plant Dis. 91:625, 2007. (4) K. Wang and C. Hiruki, Phytopathology 91:546, 2001.
Witches'-broom disease of lime (WBDL) caused by ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma aurantifolia’ is a devastating disease in the Sultanate of Oman, United Arab Emirates, and southern Iran. The disease primarily affects lime (Citrus aurantifolia), but in Iran, it is also found in bakraee, a natural C. reticulata hybrid. The disease has been experimentally transmitted from lime to several citrus cultivars by grafting and to a number of herbaceous hosts by dodder. However, the natural vector of ‘Ca. P. aurantifolia’ has not been determined. The most common phloem-feeding insect associated with lime trees in the area is the leafhopper Hishimonus phycitis. The WBDL phytoplasma has been detected in the body of this leafhopper by ELISA and PCR (1), but previous attempts to establish its vector status have failed. It was recently reported that the leafhopper can release the phytoplasma into a sugar solution by feeding through a Parafilm membrane (4). Here we report successful transmission of WBDL phytoplasma to bakraee seedlings by H. phycitis. The leafhopper nymphs and adults were collected in a WBDL-infected lime orchard in Minab (Hormozgan Province) in May of 2006. Of more than 100 leafhopper samples tested, at least 70% were positive for the phytoplasma by PCR using P1/P7 primer pair (3). Additional field-collected leafhoppers were caged (five per plant) on bakraee seedlings at the two-leaf stage in pots in the greenhouse in Zarghan (Fars Province). After 8 weeks, the remaining leafhoppers were killed with an insecticide. Six months after inoculation, 3 of 10 inoculated plants showed typical symptoms of WBDL, including bud proliferation, general chlorosis, and stunting. Symptomatic plants were strongly positive in PCR assays using primer pair P1/P7. No amplification was obtained with healthy control lime or nonsymptomatic bakraee seedlings. Amplified P1/P7 primed PCR products (1,800 bp) from experimentally vector-challenged bakraee seedlings, captured H. phycitis, and a naturally infected lime tree from Minab were subjected to restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis using AluI, HhaI, HpaII, RsaI, and TaqI enzymes. RFLP patterns from these sources were identical and similar to those reported earlier (2). These analyses verified the identity of WBDL phytoplasma in experimentally infected bakraee seedlings. To our knowledge, this is the first report of natural transmission of ‘Ca. P. aurantifolia’ by H. phycitis. References: (1) J. M. Bové et al. Proc. Conf. IOCV 12:342. 1993. (2) A. J. Khan et al. Phytopathology 92:1038, 2002. (3) B. Schneider et al. Pages 369–380 in: Molecular and Diagnostic Procedures in Mycoplasmology. Vol. 2. S. Razin and J. G. Tully, eds. Academic Press, New York, 1995. (4) M. Siampour et al. Iran. J. Plant Pathol. 41:139 (Farsi) and 35 (English), 2006.