Symptoms of abnormal proliferation of shoots resulting in formation of witches’-broom growths were observed on diseased plants of passion fruit (Passiflora edulis f. flavicarpa Deg.) in Brazil. RFLP analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences amplified in PCRs containing template DNAs extracted from diseased plants collected in Bonito (Pernambuco) and Viçosa (Minas Gerais) Brazil, indicated that such symptoms were associated with infections by two mutually distinct phytoplasmas. One phytoplasma, PassWB-Br4 from Bonito, represents a new subgroup, 16SrIII-V, in the X-disease phytoplasma group (‘Candidatus Phytoplasma pruni’-related strains). The second phytoplasma, PassWB-Br3 from Viçosa, represents a previously undescribed subgroup in group 16SrVI. Phylogenetic analyses of 16S rRNA gene sequences were consistent with the hypothesis that strain PassWB-Br3 is distinct from previously described ‘Ca.
’ species. Nucleotide sequence alignments revealed that strain PassWB-Br3 shared less than 97.5 % 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity with previously described ‘Ca.
’ species. The unique properties of its DNA, in addition to natural host and geographical occurrence, support the recognition of strain PassWB-Br3 as a representative of a novel taxon, ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma sudamericanum’.
Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as greening, is one of the most important diseases of citrus worldwide. The causal agent is a gram-negative bacterium known to inhabit the phloem of infected plants. Three different candidate species infect citrus: ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus’ found in the African continent; ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ found in Asia, Brazil, and the United States; and ‘Ca. L. americanus’ found in Brazil. (1). Tobacco is an easily transformable plant species that can be used as an experimental host system to quickly screen for candidate genes useful to control plant pathogens. However, no evidence exists on the ability of this plant species to sustain populations of ‘Ca. L. americanus’. With the purpose of transmitting ‘Ca. L. americanus’ from citrus to tobacco, fragments of healthy stems of Cuscuta spp. (dodder) were used to connect an HLB-infected sweet orange plant to each of 10 healthy plants of Nicotiana tabacum L. cv. Xanthi and allowed to remain connected for 30, 45, and 50 days. Three different HLB-infected orange plants and 30 tobacco plants were used in three independent experiments. Most HLB-exposed Xanthi plants exhibited chlorotic leaves after 50 days of exposure probably because of the parasitic effect of dodder; however, an average of 6, 1, and 3 Xanthi plants exhibited a unique blotchy mottle symptom after 30, 45, and 50 days of exposure, respectively. Symptomatic and asymptomatic leaves were collected and analyzed by PCR. The results consistently confirmed the presence of ‘Ca. L. americanus’ only in symptomatic leaves. Sequencing of the PCR product and comparison to the NCBI database also confirmed the identity of the pathogen as ‘Ca. L. americanus’. Electron microscopy analysis of four symptomatic leaves indicated the presence of bacterium-like bodies with round to elongated bacilliform shapes and surrounded by two membranes. These bodies resembled those already described in HLB-infected citrus in Brazil (1). The evidence presented above confirms the successful transmission of ‘Ca. L. americanus’ from citrus to Xanthi using the parasitic plant Cuscuta spp. Reference: (1) F. A. O. Tanaka et al. Fitopatol. Bras. 31:99, 2006.
Huanglongbing (HLB) (ex-greening) is one of the most serious diseases of citrus. The causal agent is a noncultured, sieve tube-restricted α-proteobacterium, “Candidatus Liberibacter africanus” in Africa and “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” in Asia (2). The disease has never been reported from the American continent. However, Diaphorina citri, the Asian psyllid vector of HLB, is found in South, Central, and North America (Florida and Texas). Early in 2004, leaf and fruit symptoms resembling those of HLB were observed in several sweet orange orchards near the city of Araraquara, Sao Paulo State. Leaf mottling on small and large leaves was the major symptom. Shoots with affected leaves were yellowish. Fruits were small and lopsided, contained many aborted seeds, and appeared more severely affected than were plants infected with classic HLB. Forty-three symptomatic samples and twenty-five samples of symptomless sweet orange leaves from five farms were analyzed for the presence of the HLB-liberibacters using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with two sets of HLB-specific primers for amplification of 16S rDNA (2,3) and ribosomal protein genes (1). None of the 43 symptomatic leaf samples gave a positive PCR amplification, while HLB-affected leaves from the Bordeaux HLB collection produced the characteristic amplicons with both sets of primers. The 43 symptomatic and the 25 symptomless leaf samples were then analyzed using PCR with universal primers for amplification of bacterial 16S rDNA (4). All symptomatic leaf samples, but none of the symptomless leaf samples, yielded the same 16S rDNA amplification product, indicating the presence of a bacterium in the symptomatic leaves. This was confirmed using the observation of a sieve tube restricted bacterium by electron microscopy. The 16S rDNA product was cloned, sequenced, and compared with those of “Ca. L. africanus” and “Ca. L. asiaticus”. While the 16S rDNAs of these two liberibacter species have 97.5% sequence identity, the 16S rDNA sequence of the new bacterium shared only 93.7% identity with that of “Ca. L. asiaticus” and 93.9% with that of “Ca. L. africanus”. The 16S rDNA sequence of the new bacterium had a secondary loop structure characteristic of the α subdivision of the proteobacteria and possessed all the oligonucleotide signatures characteristic of the liberibacters. For these reasons, the new bacterium is a liberibacter and is sufficiently different phylogenetically from known liberibacters to warrant a new species, “Candidatus Liberibacter americanus”. Specific PCR primers for amplification of the 16S rDNA of the new species have been developed. They were able to detect “Ca. L. americanus” in 214 symptomatic leaf samples from 47 citrus farms in 35 municipalities, while the “old” species, “Ca. L. asiaticus”, has been found only four times within the 47 farms. References: (1) A. Hocquellet et al. Mol. Cell. Probes, 13:373, 1999. (2) S. Jagoueix et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 44:379, 1994. (3) S. Jagoueix et al. Mol. Cell. Probes 10:43, 1996. (4) W. G. Weisburg et al. J. Bacteriol. 173:697, 1991.