Sequence analysis of 16S rRNA and secA genes confirms the association of 16SrI-B subgroup phytoplasma with oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) stunting disease in India.
During January 2010, severe stunting symptoms were observed in clonally propagated oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) in West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, India. Leaf samples of symptomatic oil palms were collected, and the presence of phytoplasma was confirmed by nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using universal phytoplasma-specific primer pairs P1/P7 followed by R16F2n/R16R2 for amplification of the 16S rRNA gene and semi-nested PCR using universal phytoplasma-specific primer pairs SecAfor1/SecArev3 followed by SecAfor2/SecArev3 for amplification of a part of the secA gene. Sequencing and BLAST analysis of the ∼1.25 kb and ∼480 bp of 16S rDNA and secA gene fragments indicated that the phytoplasma associated with oil palm stunting (OPS) disease was identical to 16SrI aster yellows group phytoplasma. Further characterization of the phytoplasma by in silico restriction enzyme digestion of 16S rDNA and virtual gel plotting of sequenced 16S rDNA of ∼1.25 kb using iPhyClassifier online tool indicated that OPS phytoplasma is a member of 16SrI-B subgroup and is a 'Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris'-related strain. Phylogenetic analysis of 16S rDNA and secA of OPS phytoplasma also grouped it with 16SrI-B. This is the first report of association of phytoplasma of the 16SrI-B subgroup phytoplasma with oil palm in the world.