DOI: 10.3390/plants13060787 ISSN: 2223-7747

Differential Symptomology, Susceptibility, and Titer Dynamics Manifested by Phytoplasma-Infected Periwinkle and Tomato Plants

Algirdas Ivanauskas, Junichi Inaba, Yan Zhao, Kristi D. Bottner-Parker, Wei Wei
  • Plant Science
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Phytoplasmas are intracellular pathogenic bacteria that infect a wide range of plant species, including agriculturally important crops and ornamental trees. However, our understanding of the relationship between symptom severity, disease progression, and phytoplasma concentration remains limited due to the inability to inoculate phytoplasmas mechanically into new plant hosts. The present study investigated phytoplasma titer dynamics and symptom development in periwinkle and tomato, both infected with the same potato purple top (PPT) phytoplasma strain using a small seedling grafting approach. Virescence, phyllody, and witches’-broom (WB) symptoms sequentially developed in periwinkle, while in tomato plants, big bud (BB, a form of phyllody), cauliflower-like inflorescence (CLI), and WB appeared in order. Results from quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) targeting the PPT phytoplasma’s 16S rRNA gene revealed that in both host species, phytoplasma titers differed significantly at different infection stages. Notably, the highest phytoplasma concentration in periwinkles was observed in samples displaying phyllody symptoms, whereas in tomatoes, the titer peaked at the BB stage. Western blot analysis, utilizing an antibody specific to PPT phytoplasma, confirmed substantial phytoplasma presence in samples displaying phyllody and BB symptoms, consistent with the qPCR results. These findings challenge the conventional understanding that phytoplasma infection dynamics result in a higher titer at later stages, such as WB (excessive vegetative growth), rather than in the early stage, such as phyllody (abnormal reproductive growth). Furthermore, the PPT phytoplasma titer was markedly higher in periwinkles than in tomato plants, indicating differing susceptibilities between the hosts. This study reveals distinct host responses to PPT phytoplasma infection, providing valuable insights into phytoplasma titer dynamics and symptom development, with implications for the future management of agricultural disease.

More from our Archive