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Identification of Bacterial Plant Pathogens Using Multilocus Polymerase Chain Reaction/Electrospray Ionization-Mass Spectrometry

November 2008 , Volume 98 , Number  11
Pages  1,156 - 1,164

E. Postnikova, C. Baldwin, C. A. Whitehouse, A. Sechler, N. W. Schaad, R. Sampath, V. Harpin, F. Li, R. Melton, L. Blyn, J. Drader, S. Hofstadler, and W. L. Schneider

First, fourth, fifth, and thirteenth authors: USDA-ARS, Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit, Fort Detrick, MD; second and third authors: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, MD; sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth authors: Ibis Biosciences Inc., a subsidiary of Isis Pharmaceuticals, 1891 Rutherford Rd., Carlsbad, CA.

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Accepted for publication 1 May 2008.

Polymerase chain reaction/electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS, previously known as “TIGER”) utilizes PCR with broad-range primers to amplify products from a wide array of organisms within a taxonomic group, followed by analysis of PCR amplicons using mass spectrometry. Computer analysis of precise masses allows for calculations of base compositions for the broad-range PCR products, which can then be compared to a database for identification. PCR/ESI-MS has the benefits of PCR in sensitivity and high-throughput capacity, but also has the distinct advantage of being able to detect and identify organisms with no prior characterization or sequence data. Existing broad range PCR primers, designed with an emphasis on human pathogens, were tested for their ability to amplify DNA of well characterized phytobacterial strains, as well as to populate the existing PCR/ESI-MS bacterial database with base counts. In a blinded panel study, PCR/ESI-MS successfully identified 93% of unknown bacterial DNAs to the genus level and 73% to the species/subspecies level. Additionally, PCR/ESI-MS was capable of detecting and identifying multiple bacteria within the same sample. The sensitivity of PCR/ESI-MS was consistent with other PCR based assays, and the specificity varied depending on the bacterial species. Preliminary tests with real life samples demonstrate a high potential for using PCR/ESI-MS systems for agricultural diagnostic applications.

© 2008 The American Phytopathological Society