Potatoes are a major crop in the Columbia Basin of Oregon and Washington, representing an annual farm gate value of almost $750 million. Zebra chip disease (ZC), a new and economically important disease of potato, was first reported in Oregon and Washington in 2011 (1). The disease is caused by the bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (Lso, also referred to as ‘Ca. L. psyllaurous’), which is vectored by the potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli Sulc) (1,2). Identifying alternative hosts for Lso may facilitate management of ZC disease, which has increased potato production costs in the region. The perennial weed, bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara L.), is a year-round host of the potato psyllid (3) and is also a suspected host of Lso. However, little is known about the role of this weed in ZC epidemiology. Naturally occurring bittersweet nightshade plants (n = 21) were sampled at six different locations near Hermiston, Oregon, between May and October in 2012. These plants exhibited several symptoms associated with Lso, ranging from asymptomatic to slight purpling, chlorosis, or scorching of the foliage. However, S. dulcamara exhibits similar symptoms under a variety of environmental conditions (drought stress, etc.); therefore, it was difficult to identify potentially infected plants based solely on symptomology. Leaf and stem tissue (n = 21) was analyzed with high-fidelity PCR using species-specific primers for the 16S rDNA gene, CLipoF, and OI2c (2,4). Approximately 27.3% of the plants tested positive for Lso using these primers, including plants from the following locations on 16 April, 16 May, and 24 May, respectively: Hat Rock, OR (45°55.033′ N, 119°10.495′ W), Irrigon, OR (45°54.560′ N, 119°24.857′ W), and Stanfield, OR (45°46.971′ N, 119°13.203′ W). Three plants were selected for further PCR analysis with primers for the outer membrane protein gene, 1482f and 2086r (1). Amplicons obtained with both sets of PCR primers were directly sequenced. A BLAST analysis showed that the 16S rDNA gene sequence (993 to 1,000 bp) shared 99 to 100% identity with several Lso accessions, including JN848751.1 (from Washington) and JN848753.1 (from Oregon). Likewise, the outer membrane protein gene sequence (600 to 601 bp) shared 99 to 100% identity with ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ accession KC768330.1 (from Honduras). All six sequences were deposited in GenBank (Accession Nos. KJ854199 to KJ854204). According to these findings, bittersweet nightshade may be an important annual source of Lso in the region, particularly since it serves as a host for the potato psyllid. Potato psyllids were also detected at two of the locations with infected S. dulcamara: Irrigon, OR, and Stanfield, OR. A subsample of the psyllids collected in 2012 were analyzed with PCR and Lso was detected in a sample from Stanfield, OR (5). Identifying perennial hosts of Lso promotes a better understanding of both ZC disease epidemiology and management. To our knowledge, this is the first report of Lso causing natural infections in S. dulcamara in the United States.
References: (1) J. M. Crosslin et al. Plant Dis. 96:452, 2012. (2) S. Jagoueix et al. Mol. Cell. Probes 10:43, 1996. (3) A. F. Murphy et al. Am. J. Pot. Res. 90:294, 2013. (4) G. A. Secor et al. Plant Dis. 93:574, 2009. (5) K. D. Swisher et al. Am. J. Pot. Res. 90:570, 2013.