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Phytoplasma-Induced Floral Abnormalities in Catharanthus roseus Are Associated with Phytoplasma Accumulation and Transcript Repression of Floral Organ Identity Genes

December 2011 , Volume 24 , Number  12
Pages  1,502 - 1,512

Yi-Ting Su,1 Jen-Chih Chen,2,3 and Chan-Pin Lin1,2

1Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, 106, Taiwan, Republic of China; 2Institute of Biotechnology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, 106, Taiwan, Republic of China; 3Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 106, Taiwan, Republic of China

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Accepted 6 August 2011.

Floral symptoms caused by phytoplasma largely resemble floral reversion in other plants. Periwinkle leaf yellowing (PLY) phytoplasma and peanut witches'-broom (PnWB) phytoplasma caused different degrees of floral abnormalities on infected periwinkle plants. The PLY phytoplasma-infected plants exhibited floral discoloration, virescence, small flowers, and only occasionally full floral reversion. In contrast, PnWB phytoplasma frequently induced complete floral reversion and resulted in a witches'-broom symptom from the floral reversion. Although different degrees of floral symptoms were induced by these two phytoplasmas, the morphological disorders were similar to those of other plants carrying SEPALLATA mutations or gene silencing. Here, we compared expression levels of organ-identity-related genes and pigmentation genes during floral symptom development. Accumulation of phytoplasmas in malformed flowers and their closely surrounding leaves was also compared. In infected plants, transcript abundance of all examined organ identity genes and pigmentation genes was suppressed. Indeed, CrSEP3, a SEPALLALA3 ortholog, showed the greatest suppression among genes examined. Of the pigmentation genes, transcript reduction of chalcone synthase was most highly correlated with the loss in floral pigmentation. Floral symptom severities were associated with the accumulation of either phytoplasmas. Interestingly, both phytoplasmas accumulated to higher levels in malformed flowers than in their surrounding leaves. Many plant pathogens manipulate host plant development to their advantage. It is intriguing to see whether phytoplasmas alter floral development to increase their population.

© 2011 The American Phytopathological Society