‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) is associated with the devastating citrus ‘greening’ disease. All attempts to achieve axenic growth and complete Koch’s postulates with CLas have failed to date, at best yielding complex cocultures with very low CLas titers detectable only by PCR. Reductive genome evolution has rendered all pathogenic ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ spp. deficient in multiple key biosynthetic, metabolic and structural pathways that are highly unlikely to be rescued in vitro by media supplementation alone. By contrast, Liberibacter crescens (Lcr) is axenically cultured and its genome is both syntenic and highly similar to CLas. Our objective is to achieve replicative axenic growth of CLas via addition of missing culturability-related Lcr genes.
Bioinformatic analyses identified 405 unique ORFs in Lcr but missing (or truncated) in all 24 sequenced CLas strains. Site-directed mutagenesis confirmed and extended published EZ-Tn5 mutagenesis data, allowing elimination of 310 of these 405 genes as nonessential, leaving 95 experimentally validated Lcr genes as essential for CLas growth in axenic culture. Experimental conditions for conjugation of large GFP-expressing plasmids from Escherichia coli to Lcr were successfully established for the first time, providing a practical method for transfer of large groups of ‘essential’ Lcr genes to CLas.
The oxidative (H2O2) burst is a seminal feature of the basal plant defense response to attempted pathogen invasions. In ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ UF506, expression of the SC2 prophage-encoded secreted peroxidase (F489_gp15) increases bacterial fitness and delays symptom progression in citrus. Two chromosomal 1-Cys peroxiredoxin genes, CLIBASIA_RS00940 (Lasprx5) and CLIBASIA_RS00445 (Lasbcp), are conserved among all sequenced ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ strains, including those lacking prophages. Both LasBCP and LasdPrx5 have only a single conserved peroxidatic Cys (CP/SH) and lack the resolving Cys (CR/SH). Lasprx5 appeared to be a housekeeping gene with similar moderate transcript abundance in both ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’–infected psyllids and citrus. By contrast, Lasbcp was expressed only in planta, similar to the expression of the SC2 peroxidase. Since ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ is uncultured, Lasbcp and Lasprx5 were functionally validated in a cultured surrogate species, Liberibacter crescens, and both genes significantly increased oxidative stress tolerance and cell viability in culture. LasBCP was nonclassically secreted and, in L. crescens, conferred 214-fold more resistance to tert-butyl hydroperoxide (tBOOH) than wild type. Transient overexpression of Lasbcp in tobacco suppressed H2O2-mediated transcriptional activation of RbohB, the key gatekeeper of the systemic plant defense signaling cascade. Lasbcp expression did not interfere with the perception of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ flagellin (flg22Las) but interrupted the downstream activation of RbohB and stereotypical deposition of callose in tobacco. Critically, LasBCP also protected against tBOOH-induced peroxidative degradation of lipid membranes in planta, preventing subsequent accumulation of antimicrobial oxylipins that can also trigger the localized hypersensitive cell death response.
Methylglyoxal (MG) is a cytotoxic, nonenzymatic by-product of glycolysis that readily glycates proteins and DNA, resulting in carbonyl stress. Glyoxalase I and II (GloA and GloB) sequentially convert MG into
-lactic acid using glutathione (GSH) as a cofactor. The glyoxalase system is essential for the mitigation of MG-induced carbonyl stress, preventing subsequent cell death, and recycling GSH for maintenance of cellular redox poise. All pathogenic liberibacters identified to date are uncultured, including “
Liberibacter asiaticus,” a psyllid endosymbiont and causal agent of the severely damaging citrus disease “huanglongbing.”
analysis revealed the absence of
. Liberibacter asiaticus” and all other pathogenic liberibacters. Both
are present in
, the only liberibacter that has been cultured.
GloA was functional in a heterologous host. Marker interruption of
appeared to be lethal. Key glycolytic enzymes were either missing or significantly downregulated in “
. Liberibacter asiaticus” compared to (cultured)
. Marker interruption of
, a sucrose transporter gene in
, decreased its ability to take up exogenously supplied sucrose in culture. “
. Liberibacter asiaticus” lacks a homologous sugar transporter but has a functional ATP/ADP translocase, enabling it to thrive both in psyllids and in the sugar-rich citrus phloem by (i) avoiding sucrose uptake, (ii) avoiding MG generation via glycolysis, and (iii) directly importing ATP from the host cell. MG detoxification enzymes appear to be predictive of “
” status for many uncultured pathogenic and environmental bacteria.
Discovered more than 100 years ago, the glyoxalase system is thought to be present across all domains of life and fundamental to cellular growth and viability. The glyoxalase system protects against carbonyl stress caused by methylglyoxal (MG), a highly reactive, mutagenic and cytotoxic compound that is nonenzymatically formed as a by-product of glycolysis. The uncultured alphaproteobacterium “
. Liberibacter asiaticus” is a well-adapted endosymbiont of the Asian citrus psyllid, which transmits the severely damaging citrus disease “huanglongbing.” “
. Liberibacter asiaticus” lacks a functional glyoxalase pathway. We report here that the bacterium is able to thrive both in psyllids and in the sugar-rich citrus phloem by (i) avoiding sucrose uptake, (ii) avoiding (significant) MG generation via glycolysis, and (iii) directly importing ATP from the host cell. We hypothesize that failure to culture “
. Liberibacter asiaticus” is at least partly due to its dependence on host cells for both ATP and MG detoxification.