‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’ is a cell wall-less phytopathogenic bacterium that infects many agriculturally important plant species such as alfalfa, clover, eggplant, pepper, potato, and tomato. The phytoplasma is responsible for repeated outbreaks of potato purple top (PPT) and potato witches’ broom (PWB) that occurred along the Pacific Coast of the United States since 2002, inflicting significant economic losses. To effectively manage these phytoplasmal diseases, it is important to develop diagnostic tools for specific, sensitive, and rapid detection of the pathogens. Here we report the development of a DNA endonuclease targeted CRISPR trans reporter (DETECTR) assay that couples isothermal amplification and Cas12a transcleavage of fluorescent oligonucleotide reporter for highly sensitive and specific detection of ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma trifolii’-related strains responsible for PPT and PWB. The DETECTR assay was capable of specifically detecting the 16S-23S ribosomal DNA intergenic transcribed spacer sequences from PPT- and PWB-diseased samples at the attomolar sensitivity level. Furthermore, the DETECTR strategy allows flexibility to capture assay outputs with fluorescent microplate readers or lateral flow assays for potentially high-throughput and/or field-deployable disease diagnostics.
Abstract‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’, is a bacterial pathogen associated with the so-called apple proliferation disease in Malus × domestica. The pathogen manipulates its host with a set of effector proteins, among them SAP11CaPm, which shares similarity to SAP11AYWB from ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris’. SAP11AYWB interacts and destabilizes the class II CIN transcription factors of Arabidopsis thaliana, namely AtTCP4 and AtTCP13 as well as the class II CYC/TB1 transcription factor AtTCP18, also known as BRANCHED1 being an important factor for shoot branching. It has been shown that SAP11CaPm interacts with the Malus × domestica orthologues of AtTCP4 (MdTCP25) and AtTCP13 (MdTCP24), but an interaction with MdTCP16, the orthologue of AtTCP18, has never been proven. The aim of this study was to investigate this potential interaction and close a knowledge gap regarding the function of SAP11CaPm. A Yeast two-hybrid test and Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation in planta revealed that SAP11CaPm interacts with MdTCP16. MdTCP16 is known to play a role in the control of the seasonal growth of perennial plants and an increase of MdTCP16 gene expression has been detected in apple leaves in autumn. In addition to this, MdTCP16 is highly expressed during phytoplasma infection. Binding of MdTCP16 by SAP11CaPm might lead to the induction of shoot proliferation and early bud break, both of which are characteristic symptoms of apple proliferation disease.