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Using the TxtAB Operon to Quantify Pathogenic Streptomyces in Potato Tubers and Soil

April 2008 , Volume 98 , Number  4
Pages  405 - 412

Xinshun Qu, Leslie A. Wanner, and Barbara J. Christ

First and third authors: Department of Plant Pathology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802; and second author: U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services Genetic Improvement of Fruit and Vegetable Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705.

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Accepted for publication 10 November 2007.

The phytotoxin thaxtomin, produced by plant pathogenic Streptomyces species, is the only known pathogenicity determinant for common scab diseases of potato and other root and tuber crops. Genes encoding thaxtomin synthetase (txtAB) are found on a pathogenicity island characteristic of genetically diverse plant pathogenic Streptomyces species. In this study, an SYBR Green quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay using primers designed to anneal to the txtAB operon of Streptomyces was developed to quantify pathogenic bacterial populations in potatoes and soil. The real-time PCR assay was specific for pathogenic Streptomyces strains. The detection limit of the assay was 10 fg of the target DNA, or one genome equivalent. Cycle threshold (Ct) values were linearly correlated with the concentration of the target DNA (correlation coefficient R2 = 0.99) and were not affected by the presence of plant DNA extracts, indicating the usefulness of the assay for quantitative analyses of the pathogenic bacteria in plant tissues. The amount of pathogenic Streptomyces DNA in total DNA extracts from 1 g asymptomatic and symptomatic tubers was quantified using the assay and ranged from 101 to 106 pg. A standard curve was established to quantify pathogenic Streptomyces in soil. Using the standard curve, numbers of pathogenic Streptomyces colony forming units were extrapolated to range from 103 to 106 per gram of soil from potato fields where common scab was found. This real-time PCR assay using primers designed from the txtAB operon allows rapid, accurate, and cost effective quantification of pathogenic Streptomyces strains in potato tubers and in soil.

The American Phytopathological Society, 2008