Citrus huanglongbing (HLB) is a century-old destructive disease which presents an unprecedented challenge to citrus industries worldwide. In Florida, HLB is associated with the phloem-limited bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ and is mainly transmitted by Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri). Quantification of the pathogen population in a host aids in investigation of virulence mechanisms and disease management. Recently a procedure was developed to detect live bacterial populations using a novel DNA-binding dye, propidium monoazide, in conjunction with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PMA-qPCR). Chinese box orange (Severinia buxifolia) is a common ornamental present in Florida which could host D. citri and ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’. For 20 months, the change of the live ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ populations in graft- and psyllid-transmitted Valencia sweet orange (Citrus sinensis ‘Valencia’) and S. buxifolia plants was monitored by PMA-qPCR. Our results showed that the live ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ population was significantly lower in the months of December, January, and February than the rest of the year in both hosts. No statistically significant pattern in the total bacterial population was observed in either host. This pattern may indicate a seasonal growth of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ along with the growth of both plants. These new findings should provide useful information on HLB management.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is a devastating citrus disease. It is associated with a phloem-restricted bacterium, ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, and primarily transmitted by Asian citrus psyllid in Florida. Because Liberibacter cannot be cultured, early diagnosis of HLB relies on DNA-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR), including real-time quantitative (q)PCR. Although estimating genomes from live bacteria (GLB) is critical for HLB research, PCR does not distinguish between live and dead cells and, thus, does not estimate GLB in hosts. Propidium monoazide (PMA), a novel DNA-binding dye, has been successfully used on many bacterial pathogens to effectively remove DNA from dead cells but there is no report of its use on uncultured bacteria. In this study, PMA-qPCR protocols were first optimized to work with plant and psyllid samples, respectively. Both TissueLyser treatment and plant tissue were demonstrated to have an insignificant impact on the GLB detected by PMA-qPCR. Finally, a standard curve for GLB determination was successfully established between PMA-qPCR results and microscopic counts and then applied in two studies with different greenhouse plant samples. This rapid qPCR method provides a more accurate way to determine GLB in HLB hosts which, in turn, should benefit disease epidemiology studies and serve as a crucial component in HLB management.
Huanglongbing, or citrus greening, threatens the global citrus industry. The presumptive pathogens, ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ and ‘Ca. L. americanus’ can be transferred from citrus to more easily studied experimental hosts by using holoparasitic dodder plants. However, the interaction between ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ spp. and the dodder has not been studied. We combined quantitative polymerase chain reaction with electron microscopy to show that only 65% of tendrils of Cuscuta indecora grown on ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ spp.-infected host plants had detectable levels of the pathogen. Among tendrils that were colonized by Liberibacter in at least one 2 cm segment, most were not colonized in all segments. Furthermore, the estimated population levels of the pathogen present in serial 2 cm segments of dodder tendrils varied widely and without any consistent pattern. Thus, there was generally not a concentration gradient of the pathogen from the source plant towards the recipient and populations of the pathogen were sometimes found in the distal segments of the dodder plant but not in the proximal or middle segments. Populations of the pathogens ranged from 2 × 102 to 3.0 × 108 cells per 2 cm segment. On a fresh weight basis, populations as high as 1.4 × 1010 cells per g of tissue were observed demonstrating that ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ spp. multiplies well in Cuscuta indecora. However, 55% of individual stem segments did not contain detectable levels of the pathogen, consistent with a pattern of nonuniform colonization similar to that observed in the much more anatomically complex citrus tree. Colonization of dodder by the pathogen is also nonuniform at the ultrastructural level, with adjacent phloem vessel elements being completely full of the pathogen or free of the pathogen. We also observed bacteria in the phloem vessels that belonged to two distinct size classes based on the diameters of cross sections of cells. In other sections from the same tendrils we observed single bacterial cells that were apparently in the process of differentiating between the large and round forms to the long and thin forms (or vice versa). The process controlling this morphological differentiation of the pathogen is not known. The highly reduced and simplified anatomy of the dodder plant as well as its rapid growth rate compared with citrus, and the ability of the plant to support multiplication of the pathogen to high levels, makes it an interesting host plant for further studies of host–pathogen interactions.
Huanglongbing (HLB), considered to be the most serious insect-vectored bacterial disease of citrus, is transmitted in nature by the Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri and the African citrus psyllid Trioza erytreae. D. citri was discovered in southern Florida in 1998 and the HLB disease in 2005. Both have become established throughout citrus-producing areas of Florida. Murraya species are widely grown in southern Florida as ornamental hedges and are readily colonized by D. citri vectors. Colonies of D. citri, isolates of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ from Taiwan and Florida, and the Murraya species were established in the BSL-3 biosecurity facility at Fort Detrick. In controlled inoculation experiments, D. citri transmitted ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ into M. paniculata (34/36 plants) and M. exotica (22/23 plants), but not into Bergera (Murraya) koenigii. Disease symptoms rarely developed in Murraya plants; however, positive infections were determined by conventional and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Back-inoculations of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ from M. paniculata to Madam Vinous sweet orange resulted in disease development in 25% of the inoculated plants. Considerable variability was observed in infection rates, titer, and persistence of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ in infected Murraya.