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First Report of a 16SrII-A Subgroup Phytoplasma Associated with Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) Witches'-Broom Disease in Taiwan

April 2012 , Volume 96 , Number  4
Pages  582.2 - 582.2

Y.-W. Tseng and W.-L. Deng, Department of Plant Pathology, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung 402, Taiwan; C.-J. Chang, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Griffin 30223; C.-C. Su, Taiwan Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute, Wufeng, Taichung 413, Taiwan; C.-L. Chen, Department of Agronomy, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung 402, Taiwan; and F.-J. Jan, Department of Plant Pathology, National Chung Hsing University, Taichung 402, Taiwan

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Accepted for publication 22 December 2011.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), widely grown as an ornamental and medicinal plant, is a perennial flowering plant that is native to eastern North America. In July 2011, symptoms indicative of phytoplasma disease, including floral virescence, phyllody, and witches'-broom (WB), were observed to be affecting plants in coneflower fields in Wufeng, Taichung City, Taiwan. Incidence of infected plants was estimated to be greater than 90% within a single field. Phytoplasmas previously associated with purple coneflower WB disease have all been classified as aster yellows group (16SrI) strains (GenBank Accession Nos. EU333395, AY394856, EU416172, and EF546778) except for pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) WB in Australia, which was identified as a subgroup 16SrII-D member (2). Three diseased plants were uprooted and transplanted in a greenhouse for further study. Transmission electron microscopy revealed clusters of phytoplasma cells ranging from 170 to 490 nm in diameter in phloem sieve elements of virescent and phylloid flowers and stems from diseased plants. Comparable tissues from symptomless plants were devoid of phytoplasma. Total DNA was extracted from plant tissue samples (50 to 100 mg each) including stems, leaves, and flowers by a modified CTAB method (1) from three symptomatic plants as well as from three asymptomatic coneflower plants seedlings. Analyses by a nested PCR using universal primer pairs P1/P7 followed by R16F2n/R16R2 were performed to detect putative phytoplasma (2). Each primer pair amplified a single PCR product of either 1.8 or 1.2 kb, respectively, from diseased plant tissues only. The nested PCR products (1.2 kb) amplified from phylloid flowers of the three diseased plants were cloned separately and sequenced (GenBank Accession Nos. JN885460, JN885461, and JN885462). Blast analysis of the sequences revealed a 99.7 to 99.8% sequence identity with those of Echinacea WB phytoplasma strain EWB5 and EWB6 (GenBank Accession Nos. JF340076 and JF340080), which reportedly belonged to the 16SrII-D subgroup (2). Moreover, iPhyClassifier software (3) was used to perform sequence comparison and generate the virtual restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) profile. The 16S rDNA sequences share a 99.4 to 99.5% similarity with that of the ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma australasiae’ reference strain (Y10097) and the RFLP patterns are identical to that of the 16SrII-A subgroup. Taken together, these results indicated that the phytoplasma infecting purple coneflower in Taiwan is a ‘Ca. Phytoplasma australasiae’-related strain and belongs to the 16SrII-A subgroup. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a 16SrII-A subgroup phytoplasma causing WB disease on purple coneflower in Taiwan. The occurrence of phytoplasma on purple coneflower could have direct implication for the economically important ornamental, medicinal plant, and floral industry in Taiwan, especially to the growers and breeders that eagerly promote the purple coneflower industry.

References: (1) T. M. Fulton et al. Plant Mol. Biol. Rep. 13:207, 1995. (2) T. L. Pearce et al. Plant Dis. 95:773, 2011. (3) Y. Zhao et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 59:2582, 2009.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society