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Association of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ with Zebra Chip Disease of Potato Established by Graft and Psyllid Transmission, Electron Microscopy, and PCR

June 2009 , Volume 93 , Number  6
Pages  574 - 583

G. A. Secor and V. V. Rivera, Department of Plant Pathology, North Dakota State University, Fargo 58105, USA; J. A. Abad, USDA, APHIS, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA; I.-M. Lee, USDA, ARS, Plant Molecular Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA; G. R. G. Clover and L. W. Liefting, Plant Health and Environment Laboratory, MAF Biosecurity, Auckland 1140, New Zealand; and X. Li and S. H. De Boer, Charlottetown Laboratory, CFIA, PEI C1A 5T1, Canada

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Accepted for publication 9 February 2009.

A new disease of potatoes, tentatively named zebra chip (ZC) because of the intermittent dark and light symptom pattern in affected tubers which is enhanced by frying, was first found in Mexico in 1994 and in the southwestern United States in 2000. The disease can cause severe economic losses in all market classes of potatoes. The cause of ZC has been elusive, and only recently has been associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ sp. Field samples of potato plants were collected from several locations in the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala to determine transmission to potato and tomato by grafting of ZC-infected scions and psyllid feeding. The disease was successfully transmitted, through up to three generations, by sequential top- and side-grafting ZC-infection scions to several potato cultivars and to tomato. The disease was also successfully transmitted to potato and tomato plants in greenhouse experiments by potato psyllids collected from potato plants naturally affected with ZC. Transmission electron microscopic observation of ZC-affected tissues revealed the presence of bacteria-like organisms (BLOs) in the phloem of potato and tomato plants inoculated by grafting and psyllid feeding. The BLOs were morphologically similar in appearance to BLOs associated with other plant diseases. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplified 16S rDNA sequences from samples representing different geographic areas, including the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, were almost identical to the 16S rDNA of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ previously reported from solanaceous plants in New Zealand and the United States. Two subclades were identified that differed in two single base-pair substitutions. New specific primers along with an innovative rapid PCR were developed. This test allows the detection of the bacteria in less than 90 min. These data confirm the association of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ with potatoes affected by ZC in the United States, Mexico, and Guatemala.

© 2009 The American Phytopathological Society