Sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L., Fabaceae) is widely used as a cover crop in sugar cane and citrus plantations in Brazil. C. juncea has been reported in São Paulo State (SPS) by Wulff et al. (3) as a host of the phytoplasma associated with symptoms of huanglongbing (HLB) in citrus, a member of group 16SrIX, that induces witches'-broom in sunn hemp (3). In studying the distribution of group 16SrIX phytoplasma in C. juncea in SPS, we identified this species as a new host of two phytoplasmas. Sunn hemp fields were inspected for symptoms usually associated with phytoplasma infections, such as leaf yellowing, shoot proliferation, witches'-brooms, and virescence. Ninety-nine plant samples were collected and DNA was extracted with the CTAB protocol from stems. Nested PCR was carried out with primers P1/P7, followed by amplification with primers fU3/rU5 (2), both sets being universal for phytoplasma. Asymptomatic sunn hemp samples were used as negative controls and were negative in PCR reactions. PCR products were directly sequenced with primers P1/P7 and fU3/rU5 and phytoplasma identification was conducted with BLASTn and in silico RFLP analysis for delineation of subgroups (4). Plants showing leaf yellowing (three plants; Catanduva County), shoot proliferation (one plant; Ibirá County), or witches'-brooms (one plant; Promissão County) symptoms were found to be infected with the 16SrI phytoplasma group, subgroup S. The 16S rDNA sequence (GenBank Accession No. KF878383) showed 99% identity (E value 0.0) with Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris, Onion yellows phytoplasma OY-M (AP006628), Mulberry yellow dwarf phytoplasma (GQ249410), and Ash witches'-broom phytoplasma (AY566302), among other phytoplasmas from the same group. Sunn hemp plants with shoot proliferation (three plants) carried the 16SrXV phytoplasma group, subgroup A, found in Ibirá (two plants) and Catanduva (one plant) counties, SPS. This sequence (GenBank Accession No. KF878382) displayed 99% identity (E value 0.0) with Ca. P. brasiliense, Hibiscus witches'-broom phytoplasma (AF147708), Guazuma ulmifolia witches'-broom phytoplasma (HQ258882, HQ258883), and Cauliflower stunt phytoplasma (JN818845). Both phytoplasma groups described in this report, 16SrI and 16SrXV, were collected in May 2010 and both have limited geographic distribution and occurred at low incidence. Phytoplasma of group 16SrI (Ca. P. asteris) was identified in C. spectabilis in India (1). To our knowledge, this is the first report of phytoplasmas groups 16SrI and 16SrXV in sunn hemp.
References: (1) S. Kumar et al. Plant Dis. 94:1265, 2010. (2) E. Seemüller et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 44:440, 1994. (3) N. A. Wulff et al. Tropical Plant Pathol. 34:S7, 2009. (4) Y. Zhao et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 59:2582, 2009.
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