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  Sci. Lett. J. 2016, 5: 239  
  Research Article
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Plasma membrane disintegration – A possible trigger for the induction of programmed cell death (Apoptosis) during phytoplasma infection  
  Boby. T. Edwina, C. Mohankumarb  
a Department of Botany, TKM College, Kollam, Kerala, India
b SCMS Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology Research & Development, Kerala, India

  Programmed cell death (PCD) or Apoptosis is one of the major self orchestrated cell death programs against environmental hazards, biological pathogens and differentiation process. Pathogens have a direct or indirect role in the apoptotic pathways. Certain pathogens take the advantage of apoptosis in helping itself from the immune system of the host. Phytoplasma has been identified as the pathogen of Kerala wilt disease (KWD) of coconut palms. In the present study an attempt has been made to analyze the mode of interaction of phytoplasma on host cells by characterizing the phytoplasma pellet and ultra structural and biochemical analysis of the host cells. Transmission electron microscopic (TEM) images revealed the proximal localization of phytoplasma to the cell membrane of phloem cells and the disintegration of the plasma membrane. The phytoplasma enriched pellet (PP) exhibited protease and phospholipase activity. The reduction in protein, sterol and phospholipids are observed in the purified plasma membrane of KWD palms. The host cells expressed the major apoptotic markers - DNA laddering, enhanced endonuclease and protease activity. The protease fractions were identified as cysteine and serine protease. The apoptotic symptoms were found to be significantly distributed in KWD palms compared to healthy palms. The proximity of phytoplasma to the membrane, phospholipase and protease activity of phytoplasma, disintegrated plant cell membrane and expressed apoptotic markers by the plant suggests the direct or indirect correlation between phytoplasma infection and apoptosis in KWD palms. Hence apoptosis could be one of the reasons for the death of the plant after phytoplasmic infection.  
  Phytoplasma; Phospholipase; Membrane disintegration; DNA laddering; Apoptosis  
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