Cacti (Opuntia spp.) are perennial, evergreen, succulent plants native to arid areas of the Americas. Because of their aesthetic appearance, many cacti have been cultivated and introduced to other parts of the world as ornamentals. Cacti are susceptible to phytoplasma infections and develop witches'-broom (WB) disease. Currently, all reported cactus WB cases are associated with infections by phytoplasmas in the peanut witches'-broom group (16SrII) (1,2,4). During a phytoplasma diversity survey carried out during 2004 in Yunnan, China, we collected 29 malformed and 14 healthy-looking naturally occurring cactus plants from 14 locations representing five geographical regions. Each of the 29 malformed plants exhibited stunted growth and possessed clusters of highly proliferating cladodia, typical symptoms of cactus WB disease. Nested-PCR was carried out on the DNA samples extracted from young cladodia of these plants using phytoplasma-universal 16S rDNA primers P1A/P7A and R16F2n/R16R2 (3). Results revealed that all 29 diseased plants that were examined were infected by phytoplasmas, whereas all 14 healthy-looking plants were negative for phytoplasmas. Subsequent restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of the PCR-amplified 1.25-kb 16S rDNA fragments indicated that 28 diseased plants were infected by a phytoplasma of group 16SrII, whereas one plant (from Suan Village) was infected by a ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris’-related (group 16SrI) phytoplasma designated as strain YN26. Nucleotide sequence analysis of the strain YN26 partial rRNA operon (GenBank Accession No. EF190970), covering a near full-length 16S rRNA gene, a 16S-23S rRNA intergenic spacer, a tRNA-Ile gene, and a partial 23S rRNA gene, suggested that this phytoplasma is most closely related to an ash witches'-broom phytoplasma (GenBank Accession No. AY566302, 99.7% identity) and an epilobium phyllody phytoplasma (GenBank Accession No. AY101386, 99.7% identity), both members of subgroup16SrI-B. This YN26-infected cactus plant was transferred to a greenhouse and maintained for more than 2 years, during which time DNA samples were extracted and tested two additional times. The same 16S rDNA RFLP pattern type was consistently obtained in these tests, confirming that the plant remained infected by the 16SrI phytoplasma. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a natural infection of a cactus species by a group 16SrI phytoplasma. Since this 16SrI-cactus WB phytoplasma was found in the same geographical location where 16SrII-cactus WB phytoplasma was detected both in this and a previous study (1), the findings raised the question whether 16SrI- and 16SrII-cactus WB phytoplasmas have overlapping geo- and bioecological niches. References: (1) H. Cai et al. Plant Pathol. 51:394, 2002. (2) E. Choueiri et al. Plant Dis. 89:1129, 2005. (3) I. M. Lee et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol 54:337, 2004. (4) N. Leyva-Lopez et al. Phytopathology (Abstr.) 89(suppl):S45, 1999.
Australian lucerne yellows (ALuY), a phytoplasma-associated disease, is a major problem in Australia that causes the pasture seed industry millions of dollars in losses annually (3). Samples were collected from lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) plants exhibiting symptoms indicative of ALuY (4) in a seed lucerne paddock (cv CW 5558) at Griffith, southwestern New South Wales (NSW), Australia, in November 2005 and again in January 2006. Samples were kept at 4°C and processed within 36 h of collection. Total DNA was extracted from approximately 0.3 g of leaf midribs and petioles of each plant sample and used as template in a nested PCR assay with phytoplasma universal primer pairs P1/P7 and fU5/m23sr. PCR products resulting from the first amplification were diluted (1:30) with sterile distilled water (SDW) before reamplification with fU5/m23sr. DNA of Australian tomato big bud (TBB) phytoplasma and SDW were used as positive and negative assay controls, respectively. Ten of fifteen plant samples collected in November tested positive for phytoplasma DNA. Restriction digestion profiles of nested PCR amplicons with HpaII endonuclease were the same for all symptomatic plants but differed from the control. Phytoplasma identity was determined by sequencing two nested PCR products that yielded identical sequences. One was deposited in the GenBank database (Accession No. DQ786394). BLAST analysis of the latter sequence revealed a >99.6% similarity with “Candidatus Phytoplasma australiense” (L76865) and related strains papaya dieback (Y10095), phormium yellow leaf (U43570), strawberry green petal (AJ243044), and strawberry lethal yellows (AJ243045). Direct PCR with primers FP 5′-GCATGTCGCGGTGAATAC-3′ and RY 5′-TGAGCTATAGGCCCTTAATC-3′ designed to specifically amplify DNA of “Ca. P. australiense” detected the phytoplasma in 8 of 40 samples collected in January. Whether this phytoplasma is the etiological agent solely responsible for ALuY is currently under investigation. “Ca. P. asteris” and stolbur group (16SrXII) phytoplasmas have been reported in lucerne in the United States (2) and Italy (1), respectively. Within the stolbur group 16SrXII, “Ca. P. australiense” and stolbur phytoplasma are regarded as separate species and both are distinct from “Ca. P. asteris”, a group 16SrI strain. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a “Ca. P. australiense” related strain in lucerne. References: (1) C. Marzachi et al. J. Plant Pathol. 82:201, 2000. (2) R. D. Peters et al. Plant Dis. 83:488, 1999. (3) L. J. Pilkington et al. Australas. Plant Pathol. 28:253, 1999. (4) L. J. Pilkington et al. First report of a phytoplasma associated with ‘Australian lucerne yellows’ disease. New Disease Report. Online publication at http://www.bspp.org.uk/ndr/jan2002/2001-46.asp .
Citrus huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening or citrus yellow shoot, is considered the most serious disease of citrus worldwide. The disease has Asian, African, and American forms caused by “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus”, “Ca. L. africanus”, and “Ca. L. americanus”, respectively, which can be spread efficiently by the psyllid vectors Diaphorina citri and Trioza erytreae and through contaminated plant materials. Infected citrus groves are usually destroyed or become unproductive in 5 to 8 years. The presumed low concentration and uneven distribution of the pathogens in citrus plants and vector insects make the phloem-limited bacterium difficult to detect consistently. In this study, we compared and validated four conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based protocols, one loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) protocol, and three TaqMan real-time PCR protocols. The detection sensitivity of the validated conventional PCR assays reported are improved compared with the original protocols. All of the validated conventional and the newly developed real-time methods were reliable for confirmatory tests for the presence of “Ca. Liberibacter spp.” in symptomatic samples. There were no differences in assay specificity among the standard format PCR-based methods evaluated. The TaqMan real-time PCR was 10- to 100-fold more sensitive than conventional PCR and LAMP, showing the potential to become a valuable tool for early detection and identification of “Ca. Liberibacter spp.” prior to the appearance of disease symptoms. The methods validated in this study will be very useful for regulatory response, effective management of infected trees, and development of a “Ca. Liberibacter spp.”-free nursery system.
Wampee (Clausena lansium Skeels) is native to southern China and Southeast Asia. Wampee trees are attractive, with grape-like fruits and a muscat taste and are popular in home gardens. Like other members of Rutaceae, wampee has long been suspected to have yellow shoot disease or Huanglongbing (HLB) and Diaphorina citri, the disease vector, was capable of a long-term survival on Wampee. The authors recommend that eradication of wampee trees surrounding citrus orchards should be part of the overall management of citrus HLB. Accepted for publication 20 December 2007. Published 19 April 2007.