Jacobs, Karel
Lee, I. M.
Griffiths, H. M.
Bottner, K. D.
Miller, Fredric D.

A new member of the clover proliferation phytoplasma group (16SrVI) associated with elm yellows in Illinois

Date created
A disease with symptoms similar to elm yellows (EY) was noticed in the early 1990s in suburban Chicago, IL. More than 1,000 mature American elms (Ulmus americana) have since died. Infected trees varied in the incidence and severity of canopy yellowing, leaf epinasty, butterscotch discoloration, and wintergreen odor of the phloem, but all developed a sparse and clumpy crown, uniformly necrotic phloem, and died within 2 years of showing canopy symptoms. Because symptoms were expressed irregularly and phytoplasma detection results by a commercial diagnostic company were inconsistent, a study was initiated to determine if EY phytoplasma was the causal agent. Polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) methods using universal or EY phytoplasma specific primers were employed to detect putative phytoplasma(s) associated with 10 trees of varied disease severity within the outbreak region and 10 asymptomatic trees from an uninfected area (controls). Nested PCR using universal primers revealed that 90% of trees from the outbreak region were positive for phytoplasma while asymptomatic elms from another location (controls) tested negative. Phytoplasma-positive trees ranged in disease severity from 1 (asymptomatic) to 5 (near death). Inner bark samples chiseled from the lower trunk had higher phytoplasma detection rates than foliage or drill shavings. RFLP analyses and DNA sequencing of 16S rDNA indicated that the phytoplasma recovered from dying elms in Arlington Heights is not related to the reference EY phytoplasma (group16SrV). It is most closely related to clover proliferation (CP) phytoplasma (group 16SrVI), and we have designated it Illinois Elm Yellows (ILEY) phytoplasma, and assigned it to a new taxonomic subgroup (16SrVI-C). EY phytoplasma was not detected in any samples, but two ILEY phytoplasma positive trees also were positive for aster yellows (AY) phytoplasma. ILEY phytoplasma was not detected in local leafhopper populations trapped in elm trees between May and September 2000. This is the first report of a phytoplasma related to CP phytoplasma causing elm yellows disease symptoms.
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Volume, Issue, Page Number
87, 3, 241-246