Isolation and characterization of novel Pantoea stewartii subsp. indologenes strains exhibiting center rot in onion.
Center rot of onion is an economically important disease caused by three Pantoea spp.: Pantoea ananatis, P. agglomerans, and P. allii. Symptoms caused by these three species are similar and include white streaking and necrosis of foliage; and, in some cases, the bacterium may enter the bulb, causing liquefaction and rot of bulb scales. Two bacterial strains were isolated from onion expressing symptoms indicative of center rot from two different outbreaks in Toombs County, GA in 2003 (PNA 03-3) and 2014 (PNA 14-12). These strains were initially identified as P. ananatis based on physiological and specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays; however, further 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) and multilocus sequence analysis showed that the strains were more closely related to P. stewartii subsp. stewartii and P. stewartii subsp. indologenes. Further characterization using phylogenetic analysis, a P. stewartii subsp. indologenes-specific PCR assay, indole test, and pathogenicity on onion and pearl millet were conducted. Phylogenetic analyses (16S rRNA and atpD, gyB, infB, and rpoB genes) revealed that these strains formed a distinct cluster with the type strains of P. stewartii subsp. indologenes LMG 2632T and P. stewartii subsp. stewartii LMG 2715T separate from P. ananatis, P. agglomerans, and P. allii. Furthermore, onion strains were amplified with the P. stewartii subsp. indologenes-specific PCR assay. The pathogenicity assays with onion strains showed that they were pathogenic on onion and pearl millet, a known host of P. stewartii subsp. indologenes. However, the type strain of P. stewartii subsp. indologenes LMG 2632T was pathogenic only on pearl millet but not on onion. These results suggest that the onion strains PNA 03-3 and PNA 14-12 can potentially be novel P. stewartii subsp. indologenes strains capable of producing symptoms on onion. Hence, we recommend the inclusion of P. stewartii subsp. indologenes as the fourth member in the center rot complex of onion, along with P. ananatis, P. agglomerans, and P. allii.