Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis L.) is native to southern Europe. Compounds of marigold flowers exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor-promoting, and cytotoxic activities (4). In Serbia, pot marigold is cultivated as an important medicinal and ornamental plant. Typical phyllody, virescence, proliferation of axillary buds, and witches' broom symptoms were sporadically observed in 2011 in Pancevo plantation, Serbia (44°51′49″ N, 20°39′33″ E, 80 m above sea level). Until 2013, the number of uniformly distributed affected pot marigold plants reached 20% in the field. Due to the lack of seed production, profitability of the cultivation was seriously affected. Leaf samples from 10 symptomatic and 4 symptomless marigold plants were collected and total nucleic acid was extracted from midrib tissue (3). Direct PCR and nested PCR were carried out with primer pairs P1/16S-SR and R16F2n/R16R2n, respectively (3). Amplicons 1.5 and 1.2 kb in length, specific for the 16S rRNA gene, were amplified in all symptomatic plants. No PCR products were obtained when DNA isolated from symptomless plants was used. Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns of the 1.2-kb fragments of 16S rDNA were determined by digestion with four endonucleases separately (TruI1, AluI, HpaII, and HhaI) and compared with those of Stolbur (Stol), Aster Yellows (AY), Flavescence dorée-C (FD-C), Poinsettia Branch-Inducing (PoiBI), and Clover Yellow Edge (CYE) phytoplasmas (2). RFLP patterns from all symptomatic pot marigold plants were identical to the Stol pattern, indicating Stolbur phytoplasma presence in affected plants. The 1.2-kb amplicon of representative Nv8 strain was sequenced and the data were submitted to GenBank (accession no. KJ174507). BLASTn analysis of the sequence was compared with sequences available in GenBank, showing 100% identity with 16S rRNA gene of strains from Paeonia tenuifolia (KF614623) and corn (JQ730750) from Serbia, and peach (KF263684) from Iran. All of these are members of the 16SrXII ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ group, subgroup A (Stolbur). Phytoplasmas belonging to aster yellows (16SrI) (Italy and Canada) and peanut witches' broom related phytoplasma (16SrII) group (Iran) have been identified in diseased pot marigold plants (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of natural infection of pot marigold by Stolbur phytoplasma in Serbia.
References: (1) S. A. Esmailzadeh-Hosseini et al. Bull. Insectol. 64:S109, 2011. (2) I. M. Lee et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 48:1153, 1998. (3) J. P. Prince. Phytopathology 83:1130, 1993. (4) M. Ukiya et al. J. Nat. Prod. 69:1692, 2006.