‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, the putative causal agent of citrus greening, is not available in pure culture yet. In addition to trees of citrus and citrus relatives, ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ can grow in Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, we compared the phloem sap composition in sweet orange ‘Valencia’ (Citrus sinensis) and periwinkle plants after the infection with ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’. Interestingly, in contrast to our previous studies of total leaf metabolites, we found that, compared with uninfected phloem sap, the organic acids implicated in the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) cycle including citrate, isocitrate, succinate, fumarate, and malate were reduced significantly in the infected phloem saps of both species. As a result of the reduction of organic acids content, the pH of infected phloem saps was increased. We hypothesize that the bacterial growth induces the mitochondrial TCA cycle in parenchyma cells to produce more of these compounds to be used as a bacterial carbon source. Once these compounds reach a low level in the phloem sap, the bacterium may send a signal, yet to be identified, to initiate a feedback loop to further induce the TCA cycle. Phloem blockage might be another reason behind the reduced translocation of TCA cycle intermediates within the phloem. The net result, localized availability of organic acids, likely benefits bacterial growth and may explain the unequal distribution of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ within infected trees. These findings may help in designing media for the pure culturing of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’.
Melatonin is synthesized from the amino acid L-tryptophan via the shikimic acid pathway and ubiquitously distributed in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Although most of melatonin biosynthesis genes were characterized in several plants and animal species including the insect model, Drosophila melanogaster, none of these enzymes have been identified from the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri. We used comprehensive in silico analysis and gene expression techniques to identify the melatonin biosynthesis-related genes of D. citri and to evaluate the expression patterns of these genes within the adults of D. citri with gradient infection rates (0, 28, 34, 50, 58, and 70%) of the phytopathogenic bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus and after the treatment with exogenous melatonin. We showed that the D. citri genome possesses six putative melatonin biosynthesis-related genes including two putative tryptophan 5-hydroxylase (DcT5H-1 and DcT5H-2), a putative aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (DcAADC), two putative arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (DcAANAT-1 and DcAANAT-2), and putative N-acetylserotonin O-methyltransferase (DcASMT). The infection with Ca. L. asiaticus decreased the transcript levels of all predicted genes in the adults of D. citri. Moreover, melatonin supplementation induced their expression levels in both healthy and Ca. L. asiaticus-infected psyllids. These findings confirm the association of these genes with the melatonin biosynthesis pathway.
Plant pathogenic bacteria interact with their insect host(s)/vector(s) at the cellular and molecular levels. This interaction may alter the physiology of their insect vector, which may also promote the growth and transmission of the bacterium. Here we studied the effect of “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (“Ca. L. asiaticus”) on physiochemical conditions within its insect vector, the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), and whether these changes were beneficial for the pathogen. The local microenvironments inside ACPs were quantified using microelectrodes. The average hemolymph pH was significantly higher in infected ACPs (8.13 ± 0.21) than in “Ca. L. asiaticus”-free ACPs (7.29 ± 0.15). The average hemolymph oxygen tension was higher in “Ca. L. asiaticus”-free ACPs than in infected ACPs (67.13% ± 2.11% vs. 35.61% ± 1.26%). Oxygen tension reduction and pH increase were accompanied by “Ca. L. asiaticus” infection. Thus, oxygen tension of the hemolymph is an indicator of infection status, with pH affected by the severity of the infection.
Huanglongbing (HLB), a destructive citrus disease, is associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, which is transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri. Both ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ and its vector manipulate the host metabolism for their benefit, to meet their nutritional needs and neutralize the host defense responses. We used a targeted gas chromatography-mass spectrometry–based method to explore the connection between the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) shunt, and polyamines (PAs) pathways in citrus. ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ and D. citri accelerated the conversion of α-ketoglutarate to glutamate, then to GABA, causing an accumulation of GABA in the cytosol. In silico analysis showed that the citrus genome possesses a putative GABA permease that connects the GABA shunt with the TCA cycle and supports the accumulation of succinate, fumarate, and citrate. Additionally, the PAs biosynthetic pathway might be connected directly to the TCA cycle, through the production of fumarate, or indirectly, via enhancement of GABA shunt. Taken together, we suggest that GABA shunt and PAs pathways are alternative pathways that contribute to the flux toward succinate rather than an intact TCA cycle in citrus. Both ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ and its vector enhance these pathways. This study provides more insights into citrus responses to the HLB pathosystem and could be a further step toward clues for understanding the nutritional needs of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, which could help in culturing ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’.