In June 2012, watermelon leaves (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai) were observed with angular, necrotic spots with chlorotic halos in a field in Telfair County, GA. The field exhibited 20 to 25% disease incidence with no observable symptoms on fruits. Isolations were made from foliar lesions of 30 leaves onto yeast extract-dextrose–CaCO3 (YDC) agar medium (3). Yellow-pigmented, Xanthomonas-like colonies were observed after 48-h incubation at 28°C from 100% of the samples. Bacteria harvested were gram-negative, oxidase-negative, indole-negative, hydrolyzed starch and esculin, and formed pits on crystal violet pectate and carboxymethyl cellulose media. The bacterial isolates did not produce nitrites from nitrates but produced hypersensitive reactions on tobacco upon inoculation with 1 × 108 colony-forming units (CFU)/ml. These characteristics are typical of members of the Xanthomonas campestris group. The genus Xanthomonas was confirmed using conventional PCR with genus-specific primers RST2 (5′AGGCCCTGGAAGGTGCCCTGGA3′) and RST3 (5′ATCGCACTGCGTACCGCGCGCGA3′), which produced an 840-bp band. Universal primers fD1 and rD1 (1) were used to amplify the 16S rRNA gene from four isolates and amplified products were sequenced and BLAST searched in GenBank. The nucleotide sequences of the isolates showed 97 to 98% similarity to X. cucurbitae (Accessions AB680438.1 and Y10760), X. campestris (HQ256868.1), X. arboricola (JF835910.1), X. oryzae pv. oryzicola (CP003057.1) and X. campestris pv. raphani (CP002789.1). PCR amplification and sequencing of the atpD gene (ATP synthase, 720 bp) showed 99% similarity with X. cucurbitae when BLAST searched in GenBank (HM568911.1). X. cucurbitae was not present in the database of BIOLOG (Biolog, Hayward, CA); therefore, substrate utilization tests of three isolates were compared with substrate utilization patterns of Xanthomonas groups reported by Vauterin et al. (4). The watermelon isolates displayed 93.7, 89.5, and 89.5% similarity with the reported BIOLOG metabolic profiles of X. campestris, X. cucurbitae, and X. hortorum, respectively, of Xanthomonas groups 15, 8, and 2. However, none of the isolates were amplified using a conventional PCR assay with X. campestris pv. campestris and X. campestris pv. raphani-specific primers (2), indicating a closer relationship with X. cucurbitae. When 2-week old watermelon seedlings cv. Crimson sweet (n = 4/isolate/experiment) were inoculated by spraying with a suspension of 1 × 108 CFU/ml, 100% of the seedlings developed symptoms (water soaked angular lesions that developed into necrotic spots) 14 days after planting under greenhouse conditions (~30°C and ~70% RH). Ten control plants inoculated with sterile water remained asymptomatic. Bacterial colonies were reisolated from symptomatic seedlings that showed similar characteristics to those described above. The identity of isolated colonies was confirmed by amplifying and sequencing the 16S rRNA gene, which showed 97 to 98% similarity to X cucurbitae accessions in GenBank. To our knowledge, this is the first report of X. cucurbitae on watermelon in Georgia since the 1950s.
References: (1) Y. Besancon et al. Biotechnol. Appl. Biochem. 20:131, 1994. (2) Leu et al. Plant Pathol. Bull. 19:137, 2010. (3) N. W. Schaad et al. Laboratory Guide for Identification of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria, 3rd ed. APS Press. St. Paul, MN, 2001. (4) Vauterin et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 45:472, 1995.