Major phytopathogens and strains from cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) are differentiated by MALDI-MS lipid and/or peptide/protein profiles


Phytopathogens are the main disease agents that promote attack of cocoa plantations in all tropical countries. The similarity of the symptoms caused by different phytopathogens makes the reliable identification of the diverse species a challenge. Correct identification is important in the monitoring and management of these pests. Here we show that matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) in combination with multivariate data analysis is able to rapidly and reliably differentiate cocoa phytopathogens, namely Moniliophthora perniciosa, Phytophthora palmivora, P. capsici, P. citrophthora, P. heveae, Ceratocystis cacaofunesta, C. paradoxa, and C. fimbriata. MALDI-MS reveals unique peptide/protein and lipid profiles which differentiate these phytopathogens at the level of genus, species, and single strain coming from different hosts or cocoa tissues collected in several plantations/places. This fast methodology based on molecular biomarkers is also shown to be sufficiently reproducible and selective and therefore seems to offer a suitable tool to guide the correct application of sanitary defense approaches for infected cocoa plantations. International trading of cocoa plants and products could also be efficiently monitored by MALDI-MS. It could, for instance, prevent the entry of new phytopathogens into a country, e.g., as in the case of Moniliophthora roreri fungus that is present in all cocoa plantations of countries bordering Brazil, but that has not yet attacked Brazilian plantations.

Secure identification of phytopathogens attacking cocoa plantations has been demonstrated via typical chemical profiles provided by mass spectrometric screening

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The authors thank the National Council for Scientific and Technology (CNPq) for fellowships 140743/2013-8 and general financial support 447708/2014-7, the Research Agency of the State of Sao Paulo (FAPESP) for fellowships 11/06191-7 and general financial support 12/07206-0. The authors are especially grateful to Virgínia Oliveira Damaceno, Ana Rosa Rocha Niella, and Elisangela Santos from the Cocoa Research Center of CEPLAC for the preparation of isolated pathogens.

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Correspondence to Marcos Nogueira Eberlin.

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dos Santos, F.N., Tata, A., Belaz, K.R.A. et al. Major phytopathogens and strains from cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) are differentiated by MALDI-MS lipid and/or peptide/protein profiles. Anal Bioanal Chem 409, 1765–1777 (2017).

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  • Theobroma cacao
  • Phytopathogen
  • Moniliophthora perniciosa
  • Ceratocystis spp
  • Phytophthora spp
  • Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization–time-of-flight