Molecular Identification of Phytoplasmas Infecting Diseased Pine Trees in the UNESCO-Protected Curonian Spit of Lithuania

Abstract

Although mainly known as pathogens that affect angiosperms, phytoplasmas have recently been detected in diseased coniferous plants. In 2008–2014, we observed, in the Curonian Spit of Western Lithuania and in forests of Southern Lithuania (Varena district), diseased trees of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and mountain pine (Pinus mugo) with unusual symptoms similar to those caused by phytoplasmas. Diseased trees exhibited excessive branching, dwarfed reddish or yellow needles, dried shoots and ball-like structures. restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and nucleotide sequence analysis of 16S rRNA gene fragments revealed that individual trees were infected by Candidatus (Ca.) Phytoplasma pini-related strains (members of phytoplasma subgroup 16SrXXI-A) or by Ca. Phytoplasma asteris-related strains (subgroup 16SrI-A). Of the nearly 300 trees that were sampled, 80% were infected by phytoplasma. Ninety-eight percent of the positive samples were identified as Ca. Phytoplasma pini-related strains. Strains belonging to subgroup 16SrI-A were OPEN ACCESS Forests 2015, 6 2470 identified from only few trees. Use of an additional molecular marker, secA, supported the findings. This study provides evidence of large-scale infection of Pinus by Ca. Phytoplasma pini in Lithuania, and it reveals that this phytoplasma is more widespread geographically than previously appreciated. This is also the first report of phytoplasma subgroup 16SrI-A in pine trees.

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@inproceedings{Valiunas2015MolecularIO, title={Molecular Identification of Phytoplasmas Infecting Diseased Pine Trees in the UNESCO-Protected Curonian Spit of Lithuania}, author={Deividas Valiunas and Algirdas Ivanauskas and Indre Urbonaite and Donatas Sneideris and Robert E. Davis and Jan Stenlid and Jon{\`a}s Oliva and Audrius Menkis}, year={2015} }