AbstractThe Asian citrus psyllid,Diaphorina citri, is a vector of ‘CandidatusLiberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas), a gram-negative, obligate biotroph whose infection inCitrusspecies is associated with citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing (HLB). Strategies to blockCLas transmission byD. citriremain the best way to prevent the spread of the disease into new citrus growing regions. However, identifying control strategies to block HLB transmission poses significant challenges, such as the discovery and delivery of antimicrobial compounds targeting the bacterium and overcoming consumer hesitancy towards accepting the treatment. Here, we computationally identified and tested a series of 20-mer nodule-specific cysteine-rich peptides (NCRs) derived from the Mediterranean legume,Medicago truncatulaGaertn. (barrelclover) to identify those peptides that could effectively prevent or reduceCLas infection in citrus leaves and/or preventCLas acquisition by the bacterium’s insect vector,D. citri. A set of NCR peptides were tested in a screening pipeline involving three distinct assays: a bacterial culture assay, aCLas-infected excised citrus leaf assay, and aCLas-infected nymph acquisition assay that includedD. citrinymphs, the only stage ofD. citri’s life-cycle that can acquireCLas leading to the development of vector competent adult insects. We demonstrate that a subset ofM. truncatula-derived NCRs inhibit bothCLas growth in citrus leaves andCLas acquisition byD. citrifromCLas-infected leaves. These findings reveal NCR peptides as a new class and source of biopesticide molecules to controlCLas for the prevention and/or treatment of HLB.
The Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri, is an invasive insect and a vector of ‘ Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ ( CLas), a bacterium whose growth in Citrus species results in huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening disease. Methods to enrich and sequence CLas from D. citri often rely on biased genome amplification and nevertheless contain significant quantities of host DNA. To overcome these hurdles, we developed a simple pretreatment DNase and filtration (PDF) protocol to remove host DNA and directly sequence CLas and the complete, primarily uncultivable microbiome from D. citri adults. The PDF protocol yielded CLas abundances upward of 60% and facilitated direct measurement of CLas and endosymbiont replication rates in psyllids. The PDF protocol confirmed our lab strains derived from a progenitor Florida CLas strain and accumulated 156 genetic variants, underscoring the utility of this method for bacterial strain tracking. CLas genetic polymorphisms arising in lab-reared psyllid populations included prophage-encoding regions with key functions in CLas pathogenesis, putative antibiotic resistance loci, and a single secreted effector. These variants suggest that laboratory propagation of CLas could result in different phenotypic trajectories among laboratories and could confound CLas physiology or therapeutic design and evaluation if these differences remain undocumented. Finally, we obtained genetic signatures affiliated with Citrus nuclear and organellar genomes, entomopathogenic fungal mitochondria, and commensal bacteria from laboratory-reared and field-collected D. citri adults. Hence, the PDF protocol can directly inform agricultural management strategies related to bacterial strain tracking, insect microbiome surveillance, and antibiotic resistance screening.
Huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, is the most serious disease of citrus worldwide and is associated with plant infection by ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) and other Liberibacter species. CLas is transmitted by Diaphorina citri, the Asian citrus psyllid, in a circulative propagative manner. Circulative propagative transmission is a complex process comprising at least three steps: movement of the pathogen into vector tissues, translocation and replication of the pathogen within the vector host, and pathogen inoculation of a new host by the vector. In this work, we describe an excised leaf CLas acquisition assay, which enables precise measurements of CLas acquisition by D. citri in a streamlined laboratory assay. Briefly, healthy fourth and fifth instar D. citri nymphs acquire CLas from excised CLas-positive leaves, where the insects also complete their developmental cycle. CLas titer in the resulting adults is measured using quantitative PCR and CLas-specific 16S rRNA gene primers. We observed positive correlations between CLas titer in each leaf replicate and the CLas titer that developed in the insects after acquisition (rs = 0.78; P = 0.0002). This simple assay could be used to detect CLas acquisition phenotypes and their underlying genotypes, facilitate assessment of plant factors that impact acquisition, and screen for compounds that interfere with CLas acquisition by delivering these compounds through the excised leaf.