Molecular and Morphological Characterization of the Corn Cyst Nematode, Heterodera zeae, from Greece


  • A. M. Skantar
  • Z. A. Handoo
  • G. N. Zanakis
  • E. A. Tzortzakakis


The corn cyst nematode Heterodera zeae was detected in soil from an organic maize field in northern Greece. In greenhouse studies, reproduction of H. zeae was detected on maize plants (Zeae mays) using soil high in organic matter; the field was under winter fallow at the time of sampling. Maize plants were grown in a greenhouse with soil from the affected field used as inoculum. Females appeared after six weeks incubation, and abundant cysts were present after 12 weeks. Morphological and molecular diagnosis confirmed the presence of H. zeae in the field. Cysts were identified on the basis of cyst shape and characteristics of the cyst terminal cone, including nature of fenestration, presence of bullae, cyst wall pattern, and fenestral diameter. Second-stage juveniles were identified by body and stylet length, the shape of stylet knobs, shape and length of the tail and hyaline tail terminus, and by the number of lateral lines. Molecular analysis included amplification of the ribosomal internal transcribed spacer regions (ITS 1&2 rDNA) 28S large ribosomal subunit (LSU) D2-D3 expansion segment, and partial 18S small ribosomal subunit (SSU). Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) of ITS rDNA exhibited several unique enzyme patterns that may be diagnostically useful for H. zeae. These findings are in agreement with prior analysis of H. zeae populations from the U.S. and India. Phylogenetic relationships inferred from ITS rDNA are congruent with previous analyses that placed H. zeae in a clade with H. turcomanica, H. salixophila and species of the Humuli group. Phylogenetic trees based upon heat shock protein (Hsp90) coding sequence were in general agreement with a prior study using the same marker. This study represents the first record of H. zeae in Greece and the second report of this nematode in Europe.






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