Several phytoplasmas have been reported to be associated with phyllody of strawberry fruit, including clover yellow edge, clover proliferation, clover phyllody, eastern and western aster yellows, STRAWB2, strawberry multicipita, and Mexican periwinkle virescence phytoplasmas. Plant symptoms in addition to phyllody may include chlorosis, virescence, stunting, or crown proliferation. In this report we describe a new phytoplasma in association with strawberry leafy fruit (SLF) disease in Maryland. Diseased plants exhibited fruit phyllody, floral virescence, leaf chlorosis, and plant stunting. Phytoplasmal 16S rDNA was amplified from SLF diseased plants by using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primed by primer pair P1/P7 and was reamplified in nested PCR primed by primer pair R16F2n/R2 (F2n/R2) as previously described (1). These results indicated the presence of a phytoplasma, designated SLF phytoplasma. Identification of SLF phytoplasma was accomplished by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis of DNA amplified in PCR primed by F2n/R2, using endonuclease enzyme digestion with AluI, HhaI, KpnI, HaeIII, MseI, HpaII, RsaI, and Sau3AI. Phytoplasma classification was done according to the system of Lee et al. (2). RFLP analyses of rDNA amplified in three separate PCRs gave identical patterns. On the basis of collective RFLP patterns of the amplified 16S rDNA, the SLF phytoplasma was classified as a member of group 16SrIII (group III, X-disease phytoplasma group). The HhaI RFLP pattern of SLF 16S rDNA differed from that of the apparently close relative, clover yellow edge (CYE) phytoplasma, and all other phytoplasmas previously described in group III. Based on these results, SLF phytoplasma was classified in a new subgroup, designated subgroup K (III-K), within group III. The 1.2 kbp DNA product of PCR primed by primer pair F2n/R2 was sequenced, and the sequence deposited in GenBank under Accession No. AF 274876. Results from putative restriction site analysis of the sequence were in agreement with the results from actual enzymatic RFLP analysis of rDNA amplified from phylloid strawberry fruit. Although the sequence similarity between the 1.2-kbp fragment from the 16S rDNA of SLF phytoplasma and that of CYE phytoplasma was 99.9%, the Hha1 RFLP pattern of SLF rDNA supports the conclusion that the SLF phytoplasma may be closely related to, but is distinct from, CYE and other strains that are classified in group III. These findings contribute knowledge about the diversity of phytoplasmas affiliated with group III and the diversity of phytoplasmas associated with diseases in strawberry.
References: (1) R. Jomantiene et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 48:269, 1998. (2) I.-M. Lee et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 48:1153, 1998.