Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, is an insidious disease in citrus and has become a threat to the sustainability of the citrus industry worldwide. In the U.S., Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) is the pathogen that is associated with HLB, an unculturable, phloem-limited bacteria, vectored by the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP, Diaphorina citri). There is no known cure nor treatment to effectively control HLB, and current control methods are primarily based on the use of insecticides and antibiotics, where effectiveness is limited and may have negative impacts on beneficial and non-target organisms. Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of effective and sustainable treatment options to reduce or eliminate CLas from infected trees. In the present study, we screened citrus-derived endophytes, their cell-free culture supernatants (CFCS), and crude plant extracts for antimicrobial activity against two culturable surrogates of CLas, Sinorhizobium meliloti and Liberibacter crescens. Candidates considered high-potential antimicrobial agents were assessed directly against CLas in vitro, using a propidium monoazide–based assay. As compared to the negative controls, statistically significant reductions of viable CLas cells were observed for each of the five bacterial CFCS. Subsequent 16S rRNA gene sequencing revealed that each of the five bacterial isolates were most closely related to Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, a species dominating the market of biological control products. As such, the aboveground endosphere of asymptomatic survivor citrus trees, grown in an organic orchard, were found to host bacterial endophytes capable of effectively disrupting CLas cell membranes. These results concur with the theory that native members of the citrus microbiome play a role in the development of HLB. Here, we identify five strains of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens demonstrating notable potential to be used as sources of novel antimicrobials for the sustainable management of HLB.
The 22–amino acid (flg22) pathogen-associated molecular pattern from the flagellin of Xanthomonas citri subsp. citri has been shown to induce defense responses correlated with citrus canker resistance. Here, flg22 of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, the putative causal agent of Huanglongbing (HLB), elicited differential defense responses that were weaker than those from Xcc-flg22, between those of the HLB-tolerant mandarin cultivar Sun Chu Sha and susceptible grapefruit cultivar Duncan. Transcriptomics was used to compare the effect of CLas-flg22 and Xcc-flg22 between the citrus genotypes and identified 86 genes induced only by CLas-flg22 in the tolerant mandarin. Expression of 16 selected genes was validated, by reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and was evaluated in citrus during ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ infection. Differential expression of a number of genes occurred between tolerant and susceptible citrus infected with ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, suggesting their involvement in HLB tolerance. In addition, several genes were similarly regulated by CLas-flg22 and ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ treatments, while others were oppositely regulated in the tolerant mandarin, suggesting similarity and interplay between CLas-flg22 and ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’–triggered defenses. Genes identified are valuable in furthering the study of HLB tolerance mechanisms and, potentially, for screening for HLB-tolerant citrus using CLas-flg22 as a pathogen proxy.
Plants inoculated with the huanglongbing (HLB)-associated bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) typically must be monitored for 8–10 months to identify differences in susceptibility between genotypes. Continuous light is reported to accelerate development of HLB symptoms and field observations suggest that trees girdled by tags or tree ties showed greater symptoms. Therefore, an experiment was conducted assessing HLB susceptibility as influenced by light/dark periods of 12 hours: 12 hours and 24 hours: 0 hours, in combination with scoring tree trunks to disrupt phloem. Sixty trees of each of three citrus genotypes (‘Kuharske’, previously shown to be HLB resistant; rough lemon, previously shown to be HLB tolerant; and ‘Valencia’, highly HLB susceptible) were bud grafted using two CLas-infected buds (rough lemon and citron) per tree on 26 Mar. 2012, and were placed in controlled growth rooms (one 12 hour light: 12 hour dark and one constant light) on 4 June 2012. Ten trees of each genotype in each growth room were scored 10 cm above the soil (cutting through the bark but not the wood) with a knife on 18 July 2012 and the scoring was repeated at the same scoring wounds on 30 Aug. 2012. Trees were removed from growth rooms on 12 Dec. 2012 and subsequently maintained in a greenhouse. At two to three month intervals between June 2012 and May 2013, HLB symptoms and stem diameter at 5 cm above the soil were assessed, and three leaves per tree were collected for quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) determination of CLas titer. Six months after inoculation and 3 months following imposition of treatments, the ‘Valencia’ scored in the 12 hour light: 12 hour dark regime, the ‘Valencia’ non scored trees in 24 hours of light and the ‘Kuharske’ scored trees in 24 hours of light displayed higher CLas titers than most other trees. After an additional two months, both scored and non-scored trees of all three genotypes in 24 hours of light had significantly elevated CLas titers compared with trees in 12 hour light: 12 hour dark regime, but within most treatments all three genotypes had titers which were not statistically different from each other. Growth of ‘Kuharske’ and rough lemon was enhanced; whereas ‘Valencia’ growth was reduced when graft-inoculated plants were maintained in continuous light. Scoring enhanced early CLas development in ‘Kuharske’ when combined with continuous light, had no effect in rough lemon, and showed inconsistent effects in ‘Valencia’. Although continuous lighting enhanced disease progression, it did not reveal differences in HLB susceptibility.
Assessments of the resistance of citrus germplasm to huanglongbing (HLB) can be expedited by inoculating plants under laboratory or greenhouse settings with the HLB bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). Consistent rapid screening is critical to efficiently assess disease resistance among plant materials; however, a number of factors may govern the efficacy of such inoculations. Despite the rapidity at which HLB can spread in a grove, it often takes 8 to 10 months for high levels of CLas and HLB symptoms to develop even in highly susceptible sweet orange. Therefore, two experiments were conducted to assess factors that might influence efficiency in screening for HLB resistance. In one experiment, three test citrus genotypes (‘Kuharske’, previously shown to be HLB resistant; rough lemon, previously shown to be HLB tolerant; and ‘Valencia’, HLB susceptible) were bud grafted using CLas-infected buds from four different source genotypes. All bud source genotypes had similar levels of CLas titer, but citron, rough lemon, and Volkamer lemon were hypothesized to be better bud inoculum sources as they are more tolerant of HLB than ‘Valencia’. Among the three test genotypes over all sources of infected buds, inoculations of ‘Kuharske’ resulted in lower CLas titers and fewer HLB symptoms than inoculations of rough lemon or ‘Valencia’. Inoculations of rough lemon resulted in higher CLas titers and more pronounced HLB symptoms when it was inoculated using infected buds from rough lemon or ‘Valencia’. Grafting ‘Valencia’ with infected buds from Volkamer lemon resulted in less disease than when ‘Valencia’ was grafted with infected citron, rough lemon, or ‘Valencia’ buds. Overall, these results suggest that the source of CLas-infected buds used to graft-inoculate some genotypes will influence disease development. Trunk cross-sectional area increase for the year following infection was 3× higher in ‘Kuharske’ and rough lemon, compared with ‘Valencia’. ‘Kuharske’ had very low levels of CLas (30 CLas/µg DNA), whereas ‘Valencia’ (43,000 CLas/µg DNA) and rough lemon (6700 CLas/ µg DNA) had relatively high levels. As an alternative to graft-inoculating plants with CLas-infected buds, plants can be subjected to infestations of CLas-infected Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) as occurs naturally. Of interest is if transmission rates of CLas and the development of HLB in a genotype are greater when the ACP have been feeding on the same host genotype. An experiment was therefore conducted to assess transmission of CLas by ACP reared on CLas-infected rough lemon to five different genotypes (‘Carrizo’, ‘Flame’ grapefruit, rough lemon, ‘Temple’, and ‘Valencia’). These assessments were made using a detached leaf assay recognized as a faster method of gauging transmission rates of CLas than using whole plants. Higher percentages of ACP died when they were transferred from infected rough lemon to healthy ‘Carrizo’, and lower percentages died when they were transferred to rough lemon or ‘Flame’. However, CLas transmission by infected ACP occurred to at least some leaves of each genotype in each of the five different assays, with 70% or more leaves of each genotype becoming infected in at least one assay. Over all assays, there was relatively little variation among genotypes in the percentage of leaves becoming CLas infected and in the titer of CLas developing in infected leaves. However, there were relatively large differences in transmission rates among individual assays unrelated to differences among test genotypes. Because of the rapidity of the detached leaf assay, efforts are merited to improve consistency of this inoculation method.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is one of the most destructive diseases of citrus worldwide. The three known causal agents of HLB are species of α-proteobacteria: ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, ‘Ca. L. africanus’, and ‘Ca. L. americanus’. Previous studies have found distinct variations in temperature sensitivity and tolerance among these species. Here, we describe the use of controlled heat treatments to cure HLB caused by ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, the most prevalent and heat-tolerant species. Using temperature-controlled growth chambers, we evaluated the time duration and temperature required to suppress or eliminate the ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ bacterium in citrus, using various temperature treatments for time periods ranging from 2 days to 4 months. Results of quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) after treatment illustrate significant decreases in the ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ bacterial titer, combined with healthy vigorous growth by all surviving trees. Repeated qPCR testing confirmed that previously infected, heat-treated plants showed no detectable levels of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, while untreated control plants remained highly infected. Continuous thermal exposure to 40 to 42°C for a minimum of 48 h was sufficient to significantly reduce titer or eliminate ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ bacteria entirely in HLB-affected citrus seedlings. This method may be useful for the control of ‘Ca. Liberibacter’-infected plants in nursery and greenhouse settings.
Incidence and severity of Huanglongbing (HLB) disease were assessed in Apr. 2010 among eight citrus cultivars representing diverse scion types growing in commercial groves in Florida's Indian River region, an area with a high incidence of HLB. In each grove, 20 trees of each cultivar were rated for visual HLB symptoms and leaves were collected for quantitative polymerase chain reaction quantification of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), the presumptive causal agent of HLB. There was a strong correlation between HLB rating and CLas titer (titer represented by Ct, r2 = 0.37 and 0.40, for whole tree and leaf sample, respectively, both with P < 0.0001) across all cultivars and groves. Although incidence and severity of HLB varied considerably among the groves, scion-specific differences were apparent, even when analyses excluded potentially confounding grove effects. ‘Temple’ tangor showed the most consistently low incidence of HLB symptoms and CLas titer; in contrast, ‘Murcott’ tangor and ‘Minneola’ tangelo had the highest incidence of HLB symptoms and highest CLas titer. These results suggest useful resistance to HLB with reduced symptoms and reduced CLas titer may be found in conventional scion cultivars and further work is needed to assess this potential and its commercial value.