The causal agent of Asiatic citrus canker, Xanthomonas citri pv. citri, is a bacterium of major economic importance in tropical and subtropical citrus-producing areas. X. citri pv. citri pathotype A can cause severe infection in a wide range of citrus species and induces erumpent, callus-like lesions with water-soaked margins evolving to corky cankers and leading to premature fruit, leaf drop, and twig dieback on susceptible cultivars. This quarantine organism can strongly impact citrus markets so it has consequently been subjected to eradication efforts and international quarantine regulations. Asiatic citrus canker occurs on most islands in the Southwest Indian Ocean region including the Mascarene and Seychelles archipelagos. In the Comoros archipelago, the disease was observed for the first time in Mohéli island in 1966 (2), but had not yet been reported in neighboring islands, Grande Comore and Anjouan. In September 2013, leaves of key lime (Citrus aurantifolia) and sweet orange (C. sinensis) showing symptoms of citrus canker were collected from Anjouan, Grande Comore, and Mohéli. Nine Xanthomonas-like strains (three from each of the three islands) were isolated using KC semi-selective medium (5) from diseased samples (LK126-3, LK127-7, LK128-2, LK131-10, LK137-1, LK141-3, LK144-5, LK145-5, LK146-2). Based on a specific PCR assay with 4/7 primers (4), all Xanthomonas-like strains were tentatively identified as X. citri pv. citri. All strains produced a 468-bp amplicon similar to X. citri pv. citri strain IAPAR 306 used as a positive control. Negative control reactions with sterile tris buffer did not produce amplicons. Multilocus sequence analysis (MLSA) targeting six housekeeping genes (atpD, dnaK, efp, gltA, gyrB, and lepA) (1,3) fully identified all strains from the Comoros as X. citri pv. citri. More specifically, eight strains were identified as sequence type ST2 composed of pathotype A strains of X. citri pv. citri (3) (including all strains from the Southwest Indian Ocean region) while one of them (LK141-3 from Mohéli) was identified as a new sequence type based on a non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism in gyrB (accession KJ941208). All strains were inoculated by a detached leaf assay (3) onto Mexican lime SRA 140 (C. aurantifolia), Tahiti lime SRA 58 (C. latifolia), sweet orange New Hall Navel SRA 343 (C. sinensis), grapefruit Henderson SRA 336 (C. paradisi), and Ortanique tangor SRA 110 (C. reticulata × C. sinensis). All citrus species inoculated produced typical erumpent, callus-like tissue at wound sites. Xanthomonas-like yellow colonies were re-isolated from lesions produced on Mexican lime. Boiled bacterial suspensions were assayed by PCR with 4/7 primers (4) and produced the expected amplicon, fulfilling Koch's postulates. No lesions developed on the negative control consisting of inoculations with sterile tris buffer. This is the first report of X. citri pv. citri-A causing Asiatic citrus canker in Grande Comore and Anjouan islands confirming the wide distribution of the pathogen in Southwest Indian Ocean islands. Canker-free nurseries and grove sanitation should be implemented to decrease the prevalence of Asiatic canker in the Comoros.
References: (1) N. F. Almeida et al. Phytopathology 100:208, 2010. (2) J. Brun. Fruits 26:533, 1971. (3) L. Bui Thi Ngoc et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 60:515, 2010. (4) J. S. Hartung et al. Phytopathology 86:95, 1996. (5) O. Pruvost et al. J. Appl. Microbiol. 99:803, 2005.