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Tomato Flower Abnormalities Induced by Stolbur Phytoplasma Infection Are Associated with Changes of Expression of Floral Development Genes

January 2006 , Volume 19 , Number  1
Pages  62 - 68

Pascale Pracros , 1 Joël Renaudin , 1 Sandrine Eveillard , 1 Armand Mouras , 2 and Michel Hernould 2

1UMR 1090 Génomique Développement et Pouvoir Pathogène, INRA-Université de Bordeaux 2, Centre INRA de Bordeaux, 71 avenue Edouard Bourlaux, B.P. 81, 33883 Villenave d'Ornon Cedex, France; 2UMR 619 Physiologie et Biotechnologie Végétales, INRA-Université de Bordeaux 1-Université de Bordeaux 2, Centre INRA de Bordeaux, 71 avenue Edouard Bourlaux, B.P. 81, 33883 Villenave d'Ornon Cedex, France

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Accepted 16 September 2005.

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum cv. Micro-Tom) plants infected by the stolbur phytoplasma (isolate PO) display floral abnormalities, including sepal hypertrophy, virescence, phyllody, and aborted reproductive organs, which are reminiscent of those observed in Arabidopsis thaliana mutants affected in flower development genes. Semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and in situ RNA hybridization were used to compare expressions of meristem and flower development genes in healthy and stolbur phytoplasma-infected tomatoes. In infected plants, FALSIFLORA (FA), controlling the identity of the inflorescence meristem, was up-regulated, whereas LeWUSCHEL (LeWUS) and LeCLAVATA1 (LeCLV1), regulating the meristem development, and LeDEFICIENS (LeDEF), responsible for the organ (petals and stamens) identity within the flower, were down-regulated regardless of the development stage of the flower bud. In contrast, expression of TAG1, which regulates stamen and carpel identities and negatively controls LeWUS, was up-regulated at the early stages and down-regulated at the late stages. In situ RNA hybridization analyses revealed that TAG1 transcripts were restricted to the same floral meristem territories in healthy and infected tomatoes, indicating that tissue-specific expression of TAG1 was not affected by the stolbur phytoplasma infection. Taken together, these data indicate that flower malformations of stolbur phytoplasma-infected tomatoes are associated with early changes in the expression of key flower development genes. The possible mechanisms by which the multiplication of stolbur phytoplasma in tomato sieve tubes deregulates floral development are discussed.

© 2006 The American Phytopathological Society