In the summer of 2011, in a nursery located in Viçosa City, Minas Gerais State, brownish, necrotic, irregular spots were observed on leaves of Mabea fistulifera Mart. (Euphorbiaceae), an indigenous forest species commonly found in Brazil. Around 6,300 seedlings were evaluated and as many as 60% of them showed disease symptoms, including severe defoliation and plant death. Leaves with coalescing lesions turned papery in texture and had a blighted appearance. Bacterial colonies were isolated from these symptomatic leaves on King B's medium and identified based on biochemical and molecular analysis, as a member of the Enterobacteriaceae family. Like other members of the Enterobacteriaceae family, the bacteria were facultative anaerobic, gram-negative, cream-colored on YDC medium, urease and oxidase negative, as well as catalase and asparagine positive. Bacterial DNA was extracted from pure culture grown overnight in liquid 523 medium at 28°C using the Wizard Genomic DNA Purification kit (Promega) and conserved sequences in 16S rDNA (3) and rpoB (1) were amplified by PCR. The sequence of the 1,300-bp 16S rDNA fragment and the 750-bp rpoB gene were analyzed by NCBI BLAST. Related sequences were aligned and analyzed by ClustalW in MEGA 5 software. Phylogenetic analysis by maximum likelihood, using PAUP version 4.0 and TBR algorithm with 1,000 bootstrap replications, grouped the isolate in a clade with Enterobacter cowanii and the result showed 99% and 98% identity to the 16s rDNA and rpoB, respectively. The isolate clustered closely with the type strain of E. cowanii in both phylogenetic trees constructed. Pathogenicity tests were carried out by inoculating leaves of healthy seedlings either by spraying or cutting with a scissor previously dipped into a 108 CFU/ml bacterial suspension. The experiment was in a completely randomized design, with six replications. A pot with one plant was considered one experimental unit. Control seedlings were sprayed or cut with a scissor treated with saline solution. Prior to and after inoculation, plants were kept in a humid chamber for 24 h at 26°C in the dark and at room temperature. Subsequently, plants were transferred to growth chamber at 26°C, under a 12-h photoperiod (40 μmol/s/m2). Consistent with the symptoms observed originally, 7 days after inoculation, all seedlings developed leaf spots. No characteristic symptoms could be observed in the negative control. Furthermore, Koch's postulates were confirmed by reisolation of the bacterium from symptomatic tissues. In summary, the phenotypic, biochemical, and molecular tests identified the pathogen as E. cowanii. Recently, E. cowanii was isolated from Eucalyptus trees with symptoms of bacterial blight, although its pathogenicity was not demonstrated (2). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of a member of the Enterobacteriaceae family causing disease in M. fistulifera. The result has a great importance to better understand the role of E. cowanii as a pathogen-causing disease on a forest species.
References: (1) C. L. Brady et al. Syst. Appl. Microbiol. 31:447, 2008. (2) C. L. Brady et al. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 49:461, 2009. (3) W. G. Weisburg et al. J. Bacteriol. 173:697, 1991.