Cauliflower stunt, caused by a phytoplasma of the group 16SrIII-J, was reported in the beginning of 2012 and has occurred with high incidences of infected plants (up to 90%) in crops located in the state of São Paulo in the southeast region of Brazil (3). Diseased plants exhibit general stunting, malformation of inflorescence, reddening leaves, and vessel necrosis (3). Further investigations with plants displaying identical symptoms collected in Nova Bassano, state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazilian south region, have revealed the presence of a phytoplasma distinct from 16SrIII-J subgroup. Four symptomatic plus four asymptomatic samples were assayed from a field, and the presence of phytoplasma was evidenced by nested PCR assays performed with primers P1/Tint followed by R16F2n/16R2 in three affected plants, which amplified genomic fragments of 1.2 kb from the 16S rRNA gene. No amplification occurred in non-affected samples. Nested PCR products analyzed by conventional RFLP (2) using the enzymes AluI, RsaI, KpnI, HpaII, MseI, HhaI, MboI, and BstUI pointed to the presence of a phytoplasma belonging to group 16SrXV-A in all three phytoplasma-positive samples. Virtual RFLP analysis based on restriction patterns, derived from in silico digestion with 17 endonucleases (4), confirmed the previous results obtained from those samples by conventional RFLP. The 16S rDNA sequences of this phytoplasma identified in cauliflower (GenBank Accession No. JN818845) shared 99% sequence similarity with the reference phytoplasma for subgroup 16SrXV-A (Hibiscus witches'-broom phytoplasma, AF147708), designated ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma brasiliense.’ Analysis of putative restriction sites showed excellent identity between the phytoplasma studied here and the reference phytoplasma. In addition, the arrangement of branches of a phylogenetic tree constructed with phytoplasmas representing diverse 16Sr groups and subgroups supported that the phytoplasma found in cauliflower is closed related to the representative of the subgroup 16SrXV-A. Association of distinct phytoplasmas with the same kind of disease is not rare and the present pathosystem constitutes a new example. Members of this subgroup have been described almost exclusively in Brazil and previously reported in Sida sp., periwinkle, and hibiscus (1). In some European countries, as well as in the United States and Canada, phytoplasmas belonging to group 16SrI has been associated with this type of disease, which has been reported for various species of the genus Brassica, as published in previous works (3). However, a representative of the group 16SrVI was described in infected plants in Iran (3). Although the 16SrIII-J phytoplasma is currently the most important agent of cauliflower stunt in Brazil, and members of 16SrI are prevalent in other countries, this study revealed that a 16Sr XV-A phytoplasma may be also associated with this important disease of brassicas. Besides, the findings here reported expand the natural host range, including cauliflower as new host for phytoplasmas affiliated with 16SrXV-A.
References: (1) B. Eckstein et al. Plant Dis. 95:363, 2009. (2) I. M. Lee et al. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 48:1153, 1998. (3) M. C. C. Rappussi et al. Eur. J. Plant. Pathol. 133:829, 2012. (4) Wei et al. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 57:1855, 2007.