Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don, is a member of the Apocynaceae plant family that is native to Madagascar and produces dimeric terpenoid indole alkaloids that are used in the treatment of hypertension and cancer. Periwinkle as an indicator plant is highly susceptible to phytoplasmas and spiroplasma infection from different crops, and has been found to be naturally infected with spiroplasmas in Arizona, California, and the Mediterranean countries. In this study, surveys of suspected diseased periwinkles were conducted in various regions of Selangor State, Malaysia. Periwinkles showing rapid decline in the number and size of the flowers, premature abscission of buds and flowers, reduction in leaf size, chlorosis of the leaf tips and margins, general chlorosis, and stunting and dying plants were collected. These symptoms were widespread on periwinkle in this state. Diagnosis of the disease was based on symptomatology, grafting, serology (ELISA), PCR techniques, and cultivation. Tests for transmission by grafting were conducted using symptomatic periwinkle plants. Symptoms were induced on all eight graft-inoculated healthy periwinkles approximately 2 weeks after side grafting. Preliminary examination was performed by ELISA with Spiroplasma citri Saglio polyclonal antibody that was prepared against an Iranian S. citri isolate (H. Rahimian, unpublished data). Leaf extracts of all 24 symptomatic periwinkles gave positive ELISA reactions at OD405 readings ranging from 0.310 to 0.654 to the antibody against S. citri by the indirect ELISA method. Six healthy periwinkle leaves gave OD405 readings around 0.128. Total nucleic acids were extracted from 10 symptomatic and 5 asymptomatic plants (4). PCR using the ScR16F1/ScR16R1 primer pair designed to detect S. citri in carrot and P1/P7 and secA for1/rev3 primer pairs designed for identification of phytoplasmas were used to detect the causal agent (1–3). Amplification failed when the P1/P7 universal phytoplasma primer pair was used for diseased samples. However, the PCR assays resulted in products of 1,833 and 800 bp with ScR16F1/ScR16R1 and secA for1/rev3, respectively. Five of each ScR16F1/ScR16R1 and SecAfor1/SecArev3 products were cloned with the Topo TA cloning kit (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA), sequenced, and deposited as GenBank Accession Nos. HM015669 and FJ011099, respectively. Sequences for both genes indicated that S. citri was associated with the disease on periwinkle. ScR16F1/ScR16R1 products cloned from symptomatic periwinkles had 98% sequence identity with S. citri (GenBank Accession No. AM285316), while nucleotide sequences of SecAfor1/SecArev3 products had 88% sequence identity with S. citri GII3-3X (GenBank Accession No. AM285304). S. citri was cultivated from 10 S. citri-infected periwinkles using filtration and SP-4 media. Twenty culture tubes started to change culture medium color from red to yellow 1 month after cultivation. Helical and motile S. citri was observed in the dark-field microscope. To our knowledge, this is the first report on the presence and occurrence of S. citri in Southeast Asia and its association with lethal yellows on periwinkle in Malaysia.
References: (1) J. Hodgetts et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 58:1826, 2008. (2) I.-M. Lee et al. Phytopathology 85:728, 1995. (3) I.-M. Lee et al. Plant Dis. 90:989, 2006. (4) Y.-P. Zhang et al. J. Virol. Methods. 71:45, 1998.