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Nested and TaqMan® probe based quantitative PCR for the diagnosis of Ca. Phytoplasma in coconut palms

Ramjegathesh, R., Karthikeyan, G., Balachandar, D., Ramaraju, K., Rajendran, L., Raguchander, T., Samiyappan, R.
Molecular biology reports 2019 v.46 no.1 pp. 479-488
Cocos nucifera, Phytoplasma, coconuts, cross contamination, early diagnosis, gardens, genes, inoculum, insects, leaves, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, ribosomal RNA, risk reduction, roots, saplings, India
The root (wilt) disease caused by phytoplasma (Ca. Phytoplasma) is one of the major and destructive occurs in coconut gardens of Southern India. As this organism could not be cultured in vitro, the early detection in the palm is very much challenging. Hence, proper early diagnosis and inoculum assessment relay mostly on the molecular techniques namely nested and quantitative PCR (qPCR). So, the present study qPCR assay conjugated with TaqMan® probe was developed which is a rapid, sensitive method to detect the phytoplasma. For the study, samples from different parts of infected coconut palms viz., spindle leaflets, roots and the insect vector—leaf hopper (Proutista moesta) were collected and assessed by targeting 16S rRNA gene. Further, nested PCR has been carried out using p1/p7 and fU5/rU3 primers and resulted in the amplification product size of 890 bp. From this amplified product, specifically a target of 69 bp from the 16S rRNA gene region has been detected through primers conjugated with Taqman probe in a step one instrument. The results indicated that the concentration of phytoplasma was more in spindle leaflets (8.9 × 10⁵ g of tissue) followed by roots (7.4 × 10⁵ g of tissue). Thus, a qPCR approach for detection and quantification of coconut phytoplasma was more advantageous than other PCR methods in terms of sensitivity and also reduced risk of cross contamination in the samples. Early diagnosis and quantification will pave way for the healthy coconut saplings selection and management under field conditions.