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Forests 2015, 6(7), 2469-2483; doi:10.3390/f6072469

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

1
Nature Research Centre, Institute of Botany, Phytovirus Laboratory, Akademijos g. 2, Vilnius LT-08412, Lithuania
2
USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Molecular Plant Pathology Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Avenue Bldg. 004, BARC-WEST, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA
These authors contributed equally to this work.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Jan Stenlid, Jonas Oliva and Audrius Menkis
Received: 16 June 2015 / Revised: 9 July 2015 / Accepted: 10 July 2015 / Published: 17 July 2015
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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 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. View Full-Text
Keywords: phylogeny; mollicutes; Scots pine; mountain pine; Candidatus Phytoplasma pini; Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris phylogeny; mollicutes; Scots pine; mountain pine; Candidatus Phytoplasma pini; Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Valiunas, D.; Jomantiene, R.; Ivanauskas, A.; Urbonaite, I.; Sneideris, D.; Davis, R.E. Molecular Identification of Phytoplasmas Infecting Diseased Pine Trees in the UNESCO-Protected Curonian Spit of Lithuania. Forests 2015, 6, 2469-2483.

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