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First Report of Natural Infection by “Candidatus Phytoplasma brasiliense” in Catharanthus roseus

    Authors and Affiliations
    • H. G. Montano , USDA-ARS, Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, and UFRRJ/IB, Departamento de Entomologia e Fitopatologia, Seropédica, RJ, Brazil
    • E. L. Dally
    • R. E. Davis , USDA-ARS, Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705
    • J. P. Pimentel
    • P. S. T. Brioso , UFRRJ/IB, Departamento de Entomologia e Fitopatologia, RJ, Brazil

      Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don (periwinkle) is well known as an experimental host for diverse phytoplasmas that are artificially transmitted to it through the use of dodder (Cuscuta sp.), laboratory vector insects, or grafting. However, few phytoplasma taxa have been reported in natural infections of C. roseus, and the role of C. roseus in phytoplasma dissemination and natural disease spread is not clear. In this study, naturally diseased plants of C. roseus exhibiting yellowing and witches' broom symptoms indicative of phytoplasma infection were observed throughout the year in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Shoots and leaves of four diseased plants were assayed for the presence of phytoplasma DNA sequences by nested polymerase chain reactions (PCR) as previously described (2,3). Phytoplasma rDNA was amplified from diseased periwinkle plants in PCR primed by primer pair P1/P7 and was reamplified in nested PCR primed by primer pair R16F2n/R16R2 (F2n/R2). The results indicated the presence of phytoplasma in all four diseased plants. Phytoplasma identification was accomplished by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis, using 11 restriction enzymes, of 16S rDNA amplified in PCR primed by F2n/R2. Phytoplasmas were classified according to the system of Lee et al. (1). On the basis of collective RFLP patterns of 16S rDNA, the phytoplasma infections in the four periwinkle plants could not be distinguished from one another. Furthermore, the collective RFLP patterns were indistinguishable from those reported previously for hibiscus witches' broom phytoplasma, “Candidatus Phytoplasma brasiliense” (2). The phytoplasma found in C. roseus, designated strain HibWB-Cr, was classified in group 16SrXV (hibiscus witches' broom phytoplasma group). HibWB-Cr is tentatively considered a new strain of “Ca. P. brasiliense”. C. roseus is the first known, naturally diseased alternate plant host of “Ca. P. brasiliense”. The present study identified strain HibWB-Cr in Rio de Janeiro State, where hibiscus witches' broom disease is prevalent (2). How this economically important disease of hibiscus spreads is not known. Our findings raise the possibility that a polyphagous insect vector is involved in the natural transmission of “Ca. P. brasiliense” and that C. roseus or other plant species serve as reservoirs for the spread of this phytoplasma taxon.

      References: (1) I.-M. Lee et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 48:1153, 1998. (2) H. G. Montano et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 51:1109, 2001. (3) H. G. Montano et al. Plant Dis. 84:429, 1999.