First Report of Crotalaria spectabilis Fasciation Associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris’ in India

Kumar et al. (2010). Plant Disease 94 (10)
Names (1)
Ca. Phytoplasma asteris
Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
Crotalaria spectabilis Roth. (Fabaceae), commonly known as showy rattlebox, is an herbaceous legume mainly used as a green manure crop to improve soil properties and as a source of durable fiber. However, the plant is toxic to mammals and birds because of the presence of pyrrolidizine alkaloids. A native of India and the Malay Peninsula, the species has been introduced into other areas such as the United States and Pacific Islands where the plant is an invader of cultivated lands. Fasciated rattlebox plants were sighted in fields in New Delhi in February 2010, with approximately 99% of the examined plants symptomatic. Symptoms included flattening of stems in a descending gradient of severity from the apex to the base of each affected branch. Shoots showed longitudinal undulations bearing highly reduced leaves and uneven distribution of flowers and fruits. To identify the causal agent, 10 symptomatic plants and 8 asymptomatic plants (latter sampled from a field approximately 1.5 km away) were collected for nucleic acid analysis. Total genomic DNA was extracted from flattened stems as well as the roots of symptomatic plants, and from the same tissues of asymptomatic plants, and subjected to nested-PCR using phytoplasma 16S ribosomal DNA universal primer pair P1/P7, followed by R16F2/R2 (4). A known aster yellows-infected Catharanthus roseus plant was used as a control sample. Results depicted a characteristic phytoplasma amplicon of 1.25 kb in all samples from symptomatic plants and the control plant. No amplification was observed from asymptomatic plants. To obtain a full-length sequence, a representative amplicon was purified with the QIAquick gel extraction kit (QIAGEN, Valencia, CA), cloned into pGEM-T Easy vector (Promega, Madison, WI), and sequenced. Comparison of the 1,243-bp sequence (Genbank Accession No. HM137557) using BLAST analysis of the NCBI database showed 99% homology with sequences of members of 16SrI group phytoplasmas, i.e., ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris’ such as Japanese spurge yellows (AB551736.1), Mulberry yellow dwarf (GQ249410.1), and Bamboo witches'-broom (FJ853161.1) phytoplasmas. The profiles of in vitro restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis obtained by digestion of the nested-PCR products with HhaI, KpnI, and AluI were similar to those of in silico RFLP analyses and coincided with the pattern of the 16SrI-B subgroup. Phylogenetic analysis of phytoplasma 16S rDNA sequences based on the maximum likelihood method using MEGA Version 4.1 also placed the Crotalaria fasciation (CF) phytoplasma within the 16SrI-B cluster. In India, C. tetragona plants infected with 16SrI phytoplasma (FJ185141) causing witches'-broom symptoms (1) showed 98% similarity with the CF phytoplasma. However, the results support previous molecular investigations associating 16SrI phytoplasma with fasciation of herbaceous plants, including Lilium spp. (2) and Asparagus officinalis (3). To our knowledge, C. spectabilis represents a new host that can be fasciated as a result of phytoplasma infection. Because of the weedy nature of C. spectabilis, this host could facilitate spread of the phytoplasma. References: (1) P. Baiswar et al. Plant Pathol. 19:17, 2009. (2) A. Bertaccini et al. FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 249:79, 2005. (3) J. Franova and K. Petrzik. J. Phytopathol. 158:317, 2010.K. (4) D. E. Gundersen and I.-M. Lee. Phytopathol. Mediterr. 35:144, 1996.
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