Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331
Rhodococcus fascians is a phytopathogenic actinobacterium which causes leafy galls and other plant distortions that result in economically significant losses to nurseries producing ornamental plants. Traditional assays for detection and identification are time-consuming and laborious. We developed a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic assay based on two primer pairs, p450 and fas, which target the fasA and fasD genes, respectively, that are essential for pathogenicity. We also developed a faster, more convenient, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assay targeting the fasR gene, which regulates expression of virulence genes. Both assays were evaluated for sensitivity and specificity in vitro and in planta. The p450 and fas primers amplified DNA only from pure cultures of pathogenic reference isolates of R. fascians. Nonpathogenic isolates and 51 other plant-associated bacteria were not amplified. The PCR primers correctly detected pathogenic R. fascians from 73 of 75 (97%) bacterial strains isolated from naturally infected plants. The PCR assay correctly discriminated between pathogenic R. fascians and other bacteria in 132 of 139 (95%) naturally infected plants, and in 34 of 34 (100%) artificially inoculated plants. The fas primers were slightly more accurate than the p450 primers. The LAMP assay accurately detected pathogenic R. fascians in 26 of 28 (93%) naturally infected plants and did not react with 23 asymptomatic plants. The LAMP primers also amplified product for DNA extracts of 40 of 41 bacterial strains isolated from plants with leafy galls. The detection limit of both the PCR and LAMP assays was approximately 103 CFU/30-μl reaction. These new tools allow fast, reliable, and accurate detection of R. fascians in vitro and in planta. The LAMP assay in particular is a significant advancement in rapid R. fascians diagnostics, and enables those with limited laboratory facilities to confirm the presence of this pathogen in infected plants.