Jellywort (Mesona chinensis Benth) is an herbaceous plant in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. The plant is referred to as ‘Xiancao’ (weed from angels) in Chinese and primarily used to make grass jelly, a popular refreshing drink. Currently, Xiancao cultivation is a fast-growing industry with a high profit margin in southern China. An estimated 7,000 ha is grown with a value of more than $50 million USD. In June, 2009, a wilting disease of Xiancao was observed in Guangdong and the neighboring Guangxi and Fujian provinces with incidence up to 50% in the severest case. Affected plants initially show withering symptoms on apical leaves during the daytime with recovery at night. As the disease develops, withering leaves spread downward, eventually encompassing the whole plant. Leaves lose vigor but remain green. After 3 to 4 days, wilting becomes irreversible. Roots and basal stem tissues blacken and rot, leading to plant death. Longitudinal sectioning of the basal stem shows browning of vascular tissues with whitish ooze visible when compressed. To investigate the disease etiology, 12 Xiancao plants from three cultivars showing typical wilting symptoms were collected from a production field in Zengcheng City of Guangdong Province in June 2010. A total of 27 bacterial isolates showing large, elevated, and fluidal colonies with a pale red center were isolated from vascular tissue on tripheny tetrazolium chloride medium (3) after incubation at 30° for 2 days. Fifteen 45-day-old Xiancao plants (cv. Zhengcheng 1) were inoculated by injection of 20 μl of bacterial suspension (1 × 108 CFU/ml) into the middle stem. Sterile water was used as a negative control. After 4 to 6 days of incubation in a greenhouse (28 to 30°), all (15 of 15) inoculated plants developed wilting symptoms as described above. The same bacterium was reisolated from inoculated plants. The five negative control plants did not show any wilting symptoms. With the same artificial inoculation procedure, this bacterium also caused similar wilting disease in tobacco, potato, tomato, pepper, and eggplant. An inoculation test with a tomato strain of Ralstonia solanacearum resulted in similar symptoms. On the basis of symptomatology and bacterial culture characteristics, R. solanacearum (formerly Pseudomonas solanacearum) was suspected as the causal agent. For confirmation, the universal bacterial 16S rDNA primer set E8F/E1115R (1) was used to amplify DNA from pure culture. A 1,027-bp DNA sequence was obtained and deposited in GenBank with Accession No. HQ159392. BLAST search against the current version of GenBank database showed 100% similarity with the 16S rDNA sequences of 26 R. solanacearum strains. Furthermore, primer set 759/760 (4) amplified a specific 280-bp fragment. Along with the result from multiplex PCR (2), the bacterium was identified as R. solanacearum Phylotype I. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a disease caused by R. solanacearum on M. chinensis.
References: (1) G. Baker et al. J. Microbiol. Methods 55:541, 2003. (2) M. Fegan and P. Prior. Page 449 in Bacterial Wilt Disease and the Ralstonia solanacearum Species Complex. C. Allen et al., eds. The American Phytopathological Society. St. Paul, MN, 2005. (3) A. Kelman, Phytopathology 44:693, 1954. (4) N. Opina et al. Asia Pac. J. Mol. Biol. Biotechnol. 5:19, 1997.
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