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Development of a Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay for Quantifying Verticillium albo-atrum DNA in Resistant and Susceptible Alfalfa

November 2007 , Volume 97 , Number  11
Pages  1,519 - 1,525

R. C. Larsen, G. J. Vandemark, T. J. Hughes, and C. R. Grau

First and second authors: USDA-ARS, Vegetable and Forage Crop Research Unit, 24106 North Bunn Road, Prosser, WA 99350; third and fourth authors: Department of Plant Pathology, 1630 Linden Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53706.

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Accepted for publication 21 July 2007.

A precise real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was developed for quantifying Verticillium albo-atrum DNA. The assay was used in a repeated experiment to examine the relationship between the quantity of pathogen DNA detected in infected leaves and shoots and the severity of Verticillium wilt symptoms in several alfalfa cultivars expressing a range of disease symptoms. Plants were visually inspected for symptoms and rated using a disease severity index ranging from 1 to 5, and the quantity of pathogen DNA present in leaves and stems was determined with real-time PCR. No significant differences in pathogen DNA quantity or disease severity index were observed for experiments or for cultivar--experiment interactions. Significant differences were observed between cultivars for the quantity of pathogen DNA detected with real-time PCR and also for disease severity index ratings. In both experiments, the highly resistant check cultivar Oneida VR had significantly less pathogen DNA, and significantly lower disease severity index ratings than the resistant cultivar Samauri, the moderately resistant cultivar Vernema, and the susceptible check cultivar Saranac. In both experiments, the Spearman rank correlation between the amount of V. albo-atrum DNA detected in leaves and stems with real-time PCR and disease severity index ratings based on visual examination of symptoms was positive (>0.52) and significant (P < 0.0001). These results suggest that resistance to Verticillium wilt in alfalfa is characterized by a reduced colonization of resistant genotypes by the fungus.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2007