Huanglongbing (HLB) is currently the most devastating disease of citrus worldwide. Both bacteria ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) and ‘Candidatus Liberibacter americanus’ (CLam) are associated with HLB in Brazil but with a strong prevalence of CLas over CLam. Conventionally, HLB management focuses on controlling the insect vector population (Diaphorina citri; also known as Asian citrus psyllid [ACP]) by spraying insecticides, an approach demonstrated to be mostly ineffective. Thus, development of novel, more efficient HLB control strategies is required. The multifunctional bacterial outer membrane protein OmpA is involved in several molecular processes between bacteria and their hosts and has been suggested as a target for bacterial control. Curiously, OmpA is absent in CLam in comparison with CLas, suggesting a possible role in host interaction. Therefore, in the current study, we have treated ACPs with different OmpA-derived peptides, aiming to evaluate acquisition of CLas by the insect vector. Treatment of psyllids with 5 µM of Pep1, Pep3, Pep5, and Pep6 in artificial diet significantly reduced the acquisition of CLas, whereas increasing the concentration of Pep5 and Pep6 to 50 µM abolished this process. In addition, in planta treatment with 50 µM of Pep6 also significantly decreased the acquisition of CLas, and sweet orange plants stably absorbed and maintained this peptide for as long as 3 months post the final application. Together, our results demonstrate the promising use of OmpA-derived peptides as a novel biotechnological tool to control CLas.
Although ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (Las) is a major pathogen associated with citrus huanglongbing (HLB), some characteristics of transmission by the psyllid vector Diaphorina citri are not fully understood. We examined the latent period and persistence of transmission of Las by D. citri in a series of experiments at 25°C, in which third-instar psyllid nymphs and 1-week-old adults were confined on infected citrus for an acquisition access period (AAP), and submitted to sequential inoculation access periods (IAPs) on healthy citrus seedlings. The median latent period (LP50, i.e., acquisition time after which 50% of the individuals can inoculate) of 16.8 and 17.8 days for psyllids that acquired Las as nymphs and adults, respectively, was determined by transferring single individuals in 48-h IAPs. Inoculation events were intermittent and randomly distributed over the IAPs, but were more frequent after acquisition by nymphs. A minimum latent period of 7 to 10 days was observed by transferring groups of 10 psyllids in 48-h IAPs, after a 96-h AAP by nymphs. Psyllids transmitted for up to 5 weeks, when submitted to sequential 1-week IAPs after a 14-day AAP as nymphs. The long latent period and persistence of transmission are indirect evidences of circulative propagation of Las in D. citri.