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Development of Rapid Isothermal Amplification Assays for Detection of Phytophthora spp. in Plant Tissue

February 2015 , Volume 105 , Number  2
Pages  265 - 278

Timothy D. Miles, Frank N. Martin, and Michael D. Coffey

First and second authors: United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service, Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit, Salinas, CA 93905; and third author: Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of California, Riverside 92521.

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Accepted for publication 24 August 2014.

Several isothermal amplification techniques recently have been developed that are tolerant of inhibitors present in many plant extracts, which can reduce the need for obtaining purified DNA for running diagnostic assays. One such commercially available technique that has similarities with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for designing primers and a labeled probe is recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA). This technology was used to develop two simple and rapid approaches for detection of Phytophthora spp.: one genus-specific assay multiplexed with a plant internal control and the other species-specific assays for Phytophthora ramorum and P. kernoviae. All assays were tested for sensitivity (ranging from 3 ng to 1 fg of DNA) and specificity using DNA extracted from more than 136 Phytophthora taxa, 21 Pythium spp., 1 Phytopythium sp., and a wide range of plant species. The lower limit of linear detection using purified DNA was 200 to 300 fg of DNA in all pathogen RPA assays. Six different extraction buffers were tested for use during plant tissue maceration and the assays were validated in the field by collecting 222 symptomatic plant samples from over 50 different hosts. Only 56 samples were culture positive for Phytophthora spp. whereas 91 were positive using the Phytophthora genus-specific RPA test and a TaqMan real-time PCR assay. A technique for the generation of sequencing templates from positive RPA amplifications to confirm species identification was also developed. These RPA assays have added benefits over traditional technologies because they are rapid (results can be obtained in as little as 15 min), do not require DNA extraction or extensive training to complete, use less expensive portable equipment than PCR-based assays, and are significantly more specific than current immunologically based methods. This should provide a rapid, field-deployable capability for pathogen detection that will facilitate point-of-sample collection processing, thereby reducing the time necessary for accurate diagnostics and making management decisions.

Additional keywords: sudden oak death.

This article is in the public domain and not copyrightable. It may be freely reprinted with customary crediting of the source. The American Phytopathological Society, 2015.