An updated real-time multiplex quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay was designed and validated for the simultaneous detection of three ‘Candidatus Liberibacter species’ (CLsp), Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), africanus (CLaf) and americanus (CLam), associated with the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease of citrus. The multiplex assay was designed based on the previously published qPCR assay by Li et al., 2006, taking into consideration all available CLsp 16S rRNA gene sequences in the GenBank and the MIQE guidelines and workflow for qPCR optimization, which became available after 2006. When using the updated multiplex CLsp qPCR assay compared to singleplex qPCR, no significant increase in Cq values was detected. The specificity and sensitivity of the updated qPCR assay was optimal and measuring the intra and inter assay variations confirmed the reproducibility and repeatability of the assay. The assay was also successfully used with a large number of diverse samples, at independent laboratories in four countries, thus demonstrating its transferability, applicability, practicability, and robustness as different qPCR reaction conditions or instruments had a minor effect on Cq values. This updated multiplex CLsp qPCR assay can be used in a variety of citrus surveys, germplasm, or nursery stock programs that require different pathogen detection tools for their successful operation. Keywords: Citrus greening disease, COX internal DNA control; validation; citrus germplasm; budwood; citrus nursery, citrus survey, regulatory diagnostics, Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP), National Clean Plant Network (NCPN)
It has been nearly 100 years since citrus growers in two distinct regions in the northern provinces of South Africa noticed unusual symptoms in their citrus trees, causing significant crop losses. They had no idea that these symptoms would later become part of an almost global pandemic of a disease called greening or huanglongbing (HLB). The rapid spread of the disease indicated that it might be caused by a transmissible pathogen, but it took >50 years to identify the causative agent as ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus’. Recently, the disease appeared in more African countries, spreading by both infected planting material and Trioza erytreae. To date, five ‘Ca. L. africanus’ subspecies have been identified in various rutaceous species, with ‘Ca. L. africanus subsp. clausenae’ the only subspecies for which a biovar was detected in citrus. Efforts to detect and differentiate HLB-causing Liberibacter species are ongoing, and recent developments are discussed here. This review focuses on aspects of the African form of HLB, including its specific bacterial species and subspecies, its main insect vector, its geographic distribution, and current management strategies.
AbstractCitrus Greening disease (CG) in South Africa (SA) is associated with the fastidious bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus’ (Laf). It has been observed that Laf isolates obtained from different geographic localities in SA differed in the rate of transmission during grafting experiments leading to the hypothesis that genetic variation of Laf may exist in this country. To determine this, 167 Laf isolates obtained from Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape were subjected to microsatellite analyses, using four polymorphic markers. From UPGMA and STRUCTURE analysis, it was shown that most sources belong to one of two major genetic groups of Laf and these comprise 25 distinct haplotypes. Four samples included within this study did not group with these two major groups, suggesting a potential third and fourth genetic group of Laf being present, which can be validated by further sampling. Results further indicate that Laf populations in SA are formed by geographic locality. The high genetic diversity observed for Laf within this study is consistent with the hypothesis that Laf originated on the African continent, warranting further genetic analysis of Laf populations from Africa. This is the first study to unveil the genetic diversity of Laf.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, the bacterium associated with citrus Huanglongbing (HLB), was reported from Uganda and tentatively from Tanzania, posing a threat to citriculture in Africa. Two surveys of citrus expressing typical HLB symptoms were conducted in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania to verify reports of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ and to assess the overall threat of HLB to eastern and southern African citrus production. Samples were analyzed for the presence of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ species by real-time PCR and partial sequencing of three housekeeping genes, 16S rDNA, rplJ, and omp. ‘Ca. L. africanus’, the bacterium historically associated with HLB symptoms in Africa, was detected in several samples. However, samples positive in real-time PCR for ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ were shown not to contain ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ by sequencing. Sequences obtained from these samples were analogous to ‘Ca. L. africanus subsp. clausenae’, identified from an indigenous Rutaceae species in South Africa, and not to ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’. Results indicate a nontarget amplification of the real-time assay and suggest that previous reports of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ from Uganda and Tanzania may be mis-identifications of ‘Ca. L. africanus subsp. clausenae’. This subspecies was additionally detected in individual Diaphorina citri and Trioza erytreae specimens recovered from collection sites. This is the first report of ‘Ca. L. africanus subsp. clausenae’ infecting citrus and being associated with HLB symptoms in this host.
Greening disease of citrus in South Africa is associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus’ (Laf), a phloem-limited bacterium vectored by the sap-sucking insect Trioza erytreae (Triozidae). Despite the implementation of control strategies, this disease remains problematic, suggesting the existence of reservoir hosts to Laf. The current study aimed to identify such hosts. Samples from 234 trees of Clausena anisata, 289 trees of Vepris lanceolata and 231 trees of Zanthoxylum capense were collected throughout the natural distribution of these trees in South Africa. Total DNA was extracted from samples and tested for the presence of liberibacters by a generic Liberibacter TaqMan real-time PCR assay. Liberibacters present in positive samples were characterized by amplifying and sequencing rplJ, omp and 16S rRNA gene regions. The identity of tree host species from which liberibacter sequences were obtained was verified by sequencing host rbcL genes. Of the trees tested, 33 specimens of Clausena, 17 specimens of Vepris and 10 specimens of Zanthoxylum tested positive for liberibacter. None of the samples contained typical citrus-infecting Laf sequences. Phylogenetic analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences indicated that the liberibacters obtained from Vepris and Clausena had 16S rRNA gene sequences identical to that of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus subsp. capensis’ (LafC), whereas those from Zanthoxylum species grouped separately. Phylogenetic analysis of the rplJ and omp gene regions revealed unique clusters for liberibacters associated with each tree species. We propose the following names for these novel liberibacters: ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus subsp. clausenae’ (LafCl), ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus subsp. vepridis’ (LafV) and ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus subsp. zanthoxyli’ (LafZ). This study did not find any natural hosts of Laf associated with greening of citrus. While native citrus relatives were shown to be infected with Laf-related liberibacters, nucleotide sequence data suggest that these are not alternative sources of Laf to citrus orchards, per se.