Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) as annual or biennial crop is an important vegetable in China. The lettuce variety Feiqiao, which is extensively cultivated in autumn and winter, is grown for its stem and is a characteristic species bred in Yong'an City. Since October 2005, a new disease of lettuce has been observed sporadically in the fields. Initially, chlorotic symptoms, or a faded red color, were observed on the inner leaves of the infected lettuce plants. Then, the inner leaves bleached and appeared pale, while the top leaves became straight and elongated, and stopped growing. Gummosis was observed at the base of young leaves, and the whole plant became stunted and died. The disease was named lettuce chlorotic leaf rot disease. In 2008, there was a disease outbreak in Yong'an City with an incidence of approximately 30%. In 2012, total DNA was extracted from 0.1 g of leaf tissue collected from 20 symptomatic and five asymptomatic lettuce plants using the CTAB method. A PCR analysis was performed using the phytoplasma-specific primer set R16mF2/R16mR1 (1). An approximately 1.4-kb amplicon was obtained from all 20 symptomatic plants, but no corresponding DNA fragment was amplified from the five asymptomatic plants. PCR products were cloned in Escherichia coli DH5α, using the pMD18-T vector (TaKaRa, Japan), and two isolates were sequenced. The two 1,431-bp sequences were identical (GenBank Accession No. KJ668578). A BLAST analysis revealed a 99% identity between lettuce chlorotic leaf rot phytoplasma and mulberry dwarf phytoplasma, a group 16SrI phytoplasma described by Win et al. in 2012 (3). After analyzing with iPhyclassifier, the virtual RFLP pattern derived from the 16S rDNA F2n/R2 fragment was most similar to the reference pattern of the 16Sr group I, subgroup B (NC_005303), with a pattern similarity coefficient of 0.99 (2). Additionally, the leaf veins and roots with symptoms were processed for ultrastructural examinations using transmission electron microscopy. Many typical phytoplasma-like bodies were observed in the sieve elements in the leaf veins and roots, and they were spherical to oval or dumbbell shaped and 200 to 800 nm in diameter. In agreement with these findings, seven strains of phytoplasma from 16SrI-A and 16SrI-B subgroups were reported in association with lettuce plants exhibiting various types of symptoms which were not completely consistent with those observed in China (4). To our knowledge, this is the first report of a phytoplasma associated with lettuce in China.
References: (1) R. E. Davis et al. Microbiol. Res. 158:229, 2003. (2) W. Wei et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 57:1855, 2006. (3) N. K. K. Win et al. J. Gen. Plant Pathol. 78:264, 2012. (4) J. Zhang et al. Phytopathology 94:842, 2004.
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