, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 80-84

Rickettsial Relative Associated with Papaya Bunchy Top Disease

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The phylogeny of a previously unidentified, obligate laticifer-inhabiting bacterium associated with the papaya bunchy top disease was investigated. Portions of genes corresponding to those for 16S rRNA, the flavoprotein subunit of succinate dehydrogenase (SdhA), citrate synthase (GltA), and the 17-kDa rickettsial common antigen were isolated and sequenced from the non-cultivable bacterium from diseased plants. Comparative sequence analyses consistently indicated that the bacterium is a member of the α-subdivision of the Proteobacteria and of the genus Rickettsia. The rickettsia was detected by polymerase chain reaction in diseased, but not healthy, papaya tissues and in the leafhopper vector, Empoasca papayae, providing further evidence of the possible etiological role of the bacterium in the disease. Although Rickettsia have been found naturally in arthropods and can be pathogenic to humans and other vertebrates, this is the first evidence of its kind implicating a Rickettsia as a plant pathogen.

Received: 21 July 1997 / Accepted: 28 July 1997