Expression of phytoplasma-induced witches’ broom disease symptoms in acid lime (Citrus aurantifolia) trees is affected by climatic conditions

A. G. Al-Ghaithi, A. M. Al-Sadi, M. S. Al-Hammadi, R. M. Al-Shariqi, R. A. Al-Yahyai, I. H. Al-Mahmooli, C. M. Carvalho, S. L. Elliot, S. A. Hogenhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Witches’ broom disease (WBD), caused by ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma aurantifolia’, is a serious disease of acid lime (Citrus aurantifolia) in Oman and the UAE. However, little is known about the distribution of phytoplasma and the expression of WBD symptoms in different geographical locations. A survey was carried out in 18 districts in Oman and the UAE covering 143 orchards and 5823 acid lime trees. ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma aurantifolia’ was detected in acid lime in all the 18 surveyed districts. However, the development of typical symptoms of WBD was only observed in 12 districts. Districts in which the phytoplasma was present but symptoms were not expressed were located either in desert areas or in areas characterized by semitropical conditions. Phylogenetic analysis of 16 phytoplasma isolates from trees developing WBD symptoms and six phytoplasma isolates from trees with no WBD symptoms showed that all isolates share an identical 16S rRNA sequence, belonging to subgroup II-B. Quantitative PCR analysis showed that the concentration of phytoplasma is significantly higher (8800–801 000 copies) in leaves developing WBD symptoms compared to 2–268 copies in symptomless leaves from the same trees and 8–874 copies in acid lime trees from areas where disease symptoms were not expressed. The lack of expression of WBD symptoms under certain environmental conditions may suggest that symptom development and phytoplasma are affected by certain unfavourable environmental conditions. These findings could provide a basis for managing WBD through encouraging lime cultivation under climatic conditions less conducive to WBD symptom expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1380-1388
Number of pages9
JournalPlant Pathology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • 16SrII-B
  • phytoplasma titre
  • qPCR
  • witches’ broom disease of lime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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