|Echinacea purpurea flowers undergoing phyllody (the scientific term for the abnormal development of floral parts into leafy structures), induced by phytoplasma infection.|
|Leafhoppers serve as the veihcles for the transmission of phytoplasma parasites|
|Phloem tissue infected with phytoplasma|
This new discovery is reminiscent of crown gall, which is a well-studied disease in plants caused by the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Crown galls are tumor-like structures often found at the base of many woody plants. It happens that Agrobacterium is capable of inserting a piece its own gene, known as T-DNA, into the plant genome. The gene products of the T-DNA will then transform the infected cells as a biosynthetic factory to manufacture opines used as a unique source of nitrogen for A. tumefaciens, but not for most other organisms. We as humans have successfully engineered Agrobacterium tumefaciens and its T-DNA to make any kind of transgenic plants nowadays.
|Crown gall on an spindle tree|