The tomato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli Šulc (Hemiptera: Triozidae), is a pest of solanaceous crops such as tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) in the U.S. and vectors the disease-causing pathogen ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (or Lso). Disease symptom severity is dependent on Lso haplotype: tomato plants infected with Lso haplotype B experience more severe symptoms and higher mortality compared to plants infected with Lso haplotype A. By characterizing the molecular differences in the tomato plant’s responses to Lso haplotypes, the key components of LsoB virulence can be identified and, thus, targeted for disease mitigation strategies.
To characterize the tomato plant genes putatively involved in the differential immune responses to Lso haplotypes A and B, RNA was extracted from tomato ‘Moneymaker’ leaves 3 weeks after psyllid infestation. Gene expression levels were compared between uninfected tomato plants (i.e., controls and plants infested with Lso-free psyllids) and infected plants (i.e., plants infested with psyllids infected with either Lso haplotype A or Lso haplotype B). Furthermore, expression levels were compared between plants infected with Lso haplotype A and plants infected with Lso haplotype B. A whole transcriptome analysis identified 578 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between uninfected and infected plants as well as 451 DEGs between LsoA- and LsoB-infected plants. These DEGs were primarily associated with plant defense against abiotic and biotic stressors, growth/development, plant primary metabolism, transport and signaling, and transcription/translation. These gene expression changes suggested that tomato plants traded off plant growth and homeostasis for improved defense against pathogens, especially when infected with LsoB. Consistent with these results, tomato plant growth experiments determined that LsoB-infected plants were significantly stunted and had impaired negative geotropism. However, it appeared that the defense responses mounted by tomatoes were insufficient for overcoming the disease symptoms and mortality caused by LsoB infection, while these defenses could compensate for LsoA infection.
The transcriptomic analysis and growth experiments demonstrated that Lso-infected tomato plants underwent gene expression changes related to abiotic and biotic stressors, impaired growth/development, impaired plant primary metabolism, impaired transport and signaling transduction, and impaired transcription/translation. Furthermore, the transcriptomic analysis also showed that LsoB-infected plants, relative to LsoA-infected, experienced more severe stunting, had improved responses to some stressors and impaired responses to others, had poorer transport and signaling transduction, and had impaired carbohydrate synthesis and photosynthesis.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ is a plant pathogen affecting the families Solanaceae and Apiaceae in different parts of the world. ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ is a Gram-negative, fastidious α-proteobacterium that is vectored by different psyllid species. Plant-pathogenic bacteria are known for interfering with the host physiology or defense mechanisms, often by secreting bacterial effectors. Effector proteins are critical for virulence; therefore, the identification of effectors could help with disease management. In this study, we characterized the Sec-translocon-dependent ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’–hypothetical protein effector 1 (Lso-HPE1). We compared this protein sequence in the different ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ haplotypes. We predicted the signal peptide and validated its function using Escherichia coli’s alkaline phosphatase fusion assay. Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transient expression in Nicotiana benthamiana demonstrated that Lso-HPE1 from ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ haplotypes A and B were able to inhibit the induction of cell death in plants. We also compared gene expression of the Lso-HPE1- transcripts in ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ haplotypes A and B in tomato and in the vector Bactericera cockerelli. This work validates the identification of a Sec-translocon-dependent ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ protein possibly involved in suppression of plant cell death.
Disease caused by the bacterial pathogen “Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum” (Lso) represents a serious threat to solanaceous crop production. Insecticide applications to control the psyllid vector, Bactericera cockerelli Šulc (Hemiptera: Triozidae) has led to the emergence of resistance in psyllids populations. Efforts to select natural resistant cultivars have been marginally successful and have been complicated by the presence of distinct Lso haplotypes (LsoA, LsoB) differing in symptoms severity on potato and tomato. A potentially promising management tool is to boost host resistance to the pathogen and/or the insect vector by promoting mycorrhization. Here we tested the hypothesis that mycorrhizal fungi can mitigate the effect of Lso infection on tomato plants. The presence of mycorrhizal fungi substantially delayed and reduced the incidence of Lso-induced symptoms on tomato as compared to non-mycorrhized plants. However, PCR with specific Lso primers revealed that mycorrhization did not prevent Lso transmission or translocation to newly formed leaves. Mycorrhization significantly reduced oviposition by psyllids harboring LsoA and survival of nymphs from these eggs. However, mycorrhization had no effect on oviposition by psyllids harboring LsoB or the survival of nymphs from parents harboring LsoB. These findings indicate the use of mycorrhizal fungi is a promising strategy for the mitigation of disease caused by both LsoA and LsoB and warrants additional field testing.
“Candidatus Liberibacter” species are associated with economically devastating diseases of citrus, potato, and many other crops. The importance of these diseases as well as the proliferation of new diseases on a wider host range is likely to increase as the insects vectoring the “Ca. Liberibacter” species expand their territories worldwide. Here, we review the progress on understanding pathogenesis mechanisms of “Ca. Liberibacter” species and the control approaches for diseases they cause. We discuss the Liberibacter virulence traits, including secretion systems, putative effectors, and lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), as well as other important traits likely to contribute to disease development, e.g., flagella, prophages, and salicylic acid hydroxylase. The pathogenesis mechanisms of Liberibacters are discussed. Liberibacters secrete Sec-dependent effectors (SDEs) or other virulence factors into the phloem elements or companion cells to interfere with host targets (e.g., proteins or genes), which cause cell death, necrosis, or other phenotypes of phloem elements or companion cells, leading to localized cell responses and systemic malfunction of phloem. Receptors on the remaining organelles in the phloem, such as plastid, vacuole, mitochondrion, or endoplasmic reticulum, interact with secreted SDEs and/or other virulence factors secreted or located on the Liberibacter outer membrane to trigger cell responses. Some of the host genes or proteins targeted by SDEs or other virulence factors of Liberibacters serve as susceptibility genes that facilitate compatibility (e.g., promoting pathogen growth or suppressing immune responses) or disease development. In addition, Liberibacters trigger plant immunity response via pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs, such as lipopolysaccharides), which leads to premature cell death, callose deposition, or phloem protein accumulation, causing a localized response and/or systemic effect on phloem transportation. Physical presence of Liberibacters and their metabolic activities may disturb the function of phloem, via disrupting osmotic gradients, or the integrity of phloem conductivity. We also review disease management strategies, including promising new technologies. Citrus production in the presence of Huanglongbing is possible if the most promising management approaches are integrated. HLB management is discussed in the context of local, area-wide, and regional Huanglongbing/Asian Citrus Psyllid epidemiological zones. For zebra chip disease control, aggressive psyllid management enables potato production, although insecticide resistance is becoming an issue. Meanwhile, new technologies such as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-derived genome editing provide an unprecedented opportunity to provide long-term solutions.