Corn reddening (CR) or maize redness is a severe disease of corn (Zea mays L.) associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’ or stolbur phytoplasma (16SrXII-A). In Serbia, CR is continually present at a low frequency, while two outbreaks occurred in the late 1950s and 1990s. Its etiology was molecularly determined in 2006 (1). The first severe outbreak in Bulgaria was observed in Kneja in 1992, and in 2010 typical CR symptoms (leaf reddening, premature drying, and shriveled grains) were observed from Byala Slatina to Pleven. Although the number of CR affected plants was highly variable in different fields, the disease incidence in most cases was 30 to 50%, with an estimated yield reduction of about 20%. Leaf samples from four symptomatic corn plants were collected from Kneja, northwestern Bulgaria, in mid-August 2013. Extraction of DNA was performed from the main leaf midrib tissues using the CTAB method. Separate PCRs were carried out for amplification of the phytoplasma 16S rDNA and tuf genes using the phytoplasma specific primers P1/P7 and TufAyf/r, respectively. DNA from asymptomatic corn plants and reactions without template DNA were employed as negative controls, while DNA from periwinkle tissue infected with ‘Ca. P. asteris’ was used as a positive control. Amplicons of the expected sizes (1.7 and 0.9 kbp, respectively) were produced with DNA from three out of four symptomatic corn samples, while no amplification was observed with DNA from one symptomatic corn sample (probably because samples were collected during a drought period) nor the DNA from asymptomatic plants and negative control. RFLP analyses performed on 16S rDNA and tuf gene amplicons using Tru1I and HpaII restriction enzymes, respectively, revealed the presence of ‘Ca. P. solani’ (16SrXII-A, tuf type b) in all three positive samples (3). Both amplicons of a selected representative sample 241/13 were directly sequenced by a commercial service and the obtained sequences were deposited in NCBI GenBank under the accession number KF907506 for the16S rDNA (1,684 bp) and KF907507 for the tuf gene (896 bp). The 16S rDNA sequence of phytoplasma detected in Bulgarian corn shared a complete sequence identity with ‘Ca. P. solani’ strain from Serbian corn (JQ730750.1) and >99.7% sequence identity with the reference strain STOL (AF248959), while the tuf gene nucleotide sequence shared complete sequence identity with several ‘Ca. P. solani’ (e.g., Serbian strain 284/09, FO393427), thus confirming, with both genes, the affiliation of phytoplasmas in Bulgarian corn to ‘Ca. P. solani’. This study adds new information on CR prevalence, previously reported in neighboring countries. Further studies will investigate the roles of Hyalesthes obsoletus and Reptalus panzeri, both polyphagous Cixiidae reported as CR vectors (2,4) in disease transmission in Bulgaria.
References: (1) B. Duduk and A. Bertaccini. Plant Dis. 90:1313, 2006. (2) J. Jović et al. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. 118:85, 2007. (3) I.-M. Lee et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 48:1153, 1998. (4) N. Mori et al. Bull. Insectol. 66:245, 2013.
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