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Detection of Phytoplasma by Polymerase Chain Reaction of Insect Feeding Medium and Its Use in Determining Vectoring Ability

August 2001 , Volume 91 , Number  8
Pages  741 - 746

E. Tanne , E. Boudon-Padieu , D. Clair , M. Davidovich , S. Melamed , and Meir Klein

First, fourth, and sixth authors: Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel; second and third authors: BBCE-IPM Equipe Phytoplasmas, INRA, Dijon, France; and fifth author: The Hebrew University, Faculty of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot 76100, Israel

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Accepted for publication 12 April 2001.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method was developed for the detection of phytoplasma in insect feeding medium (sucrose). A correlation was established between the transmissibility of Flavescence dorée phytoplasma in the experimental leafhopper vector Euscelidius variegatus and its detection by PCR in the insect feeding medium. However, phytoplasma were detected in the insects' bodies 3 weeks before they began to transmit. Hence, PCR assays of the sucrose medium reflected phytoplasma vectoring ability probably by detecting it in the insect saliva, whereas detection of phytoplasma in the insect's body did not identify it as a vector. The assay was applied to two field-collected leafhoppers suspected of being phytoplasma vectors in Israel (Orosius albicinctus and Anaceratagallia laevis). The presence of phytoplasma in the body of specimens of the latter species was assayed by PCR in 1999. Phytoplasmas were detected in insects' bodies throughout the year, with no specific seasonal pattern. In the saliva, however, no phytoplasma could be detected in the autumn. This seasonal pattern supported the validity of the feeding-medium tests and their correlation to the insect's ability to transmit phytoplasma. Transmission assays indicated, to our knowledge for the first time, that O. albicinctus and A. laevis are vectors of phytoplasma in Israel. A simple PCR-based assay is thus provided, circumventing the need for tedious biological assays and enabling epidemiological studies of phytoplasma transmissibility on a large scale.

Additional keyword: yellows diseases .

© 2001 The American Phytopathological Society