Huanglongbing (HLB) is a global devastating citrus disease that is mainly caused by “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (CLas). It is mostly transmitted by the insect Asian citrus psyllid (ACP, Diaphorina citri) in a persistent and proliferative manner. CLas traverses multiple barriers to complete an infection cycle and is likely involved in multiple interactions with D. citri. However, the protein–protein interactions between CLas and D. citri are largely unknown. Here, we report on a vitellogenin-like protein (Vg_VWD) in D. citri that interacts with a CLas flagellum (flaA) protein. We found that Vg_VWD was upregulated in CLas-infected D. citri. Silencing of Vg_VWD in D. citri via RNAi silencing significantly increased the CLas titer, suggesting that Vg_VWD plays an important role in the CLas–D. citri interaction. Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression assays indicated that Vg_VWD inhibits BAX- and INF1-triggered necrosis and suppresses the callose deposition induced by flaA in Nicotiana benthamiana. These findings provide new insights into the molecular interaction between CLas and D. citri.
Huanglongbing (HLB) or greening currently is the most devastating citrus disease worldwide. The fastidious phloem-colonizing bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) is the causal agent of citrus HLB in Florida. Bactericides containing the active ingredient oxytetracycline (OTC) have been used in foliar spray to control citrus HLB in Florida since 2016. However, the minimum concentration of OTC required to suppress CLas in planta remains unknown. We developed a new method for evaluating the effects of OTC treatment on CLas titers in infected plants and determined the relationship between OTC residue levels and control levels achieved for CLas using mathematical modeling in greenhouse and field experiments. In both greenhouse and field, OTC spray did not reduce the titers of CLas, and it produced undetectable or mild levels of OTC residue in leaves within 7 days post-application (DPA). In greenhouse, OTC injection at 0.05 g per tree decreased CLas titers to an undetectable level (cycle threshold value ≥ 36.0) from 7 to 30 DPA and produced a residue level of OTC at 0.68 to 0.73 µg/g of fresh tissue over this period. In the field, OTC injection at 0.50 g per tree resulted in the decline of CLas titers by 1.52 log reduction from 14 to 60 DPA, with residue levels of OTC at 0.27 to 0.33 µg/g of fresh tissue. In both trials, a first-order compart model of OTC residue dynamics in leaves of trunk-injected trees was specified for estimating the retention of effective concentrations. Furthermore, nonlinear modeling revealed significant positive correlations between OTC residue levels in leaves and the control levels for CLas achieved. The results suggested that the minimum concentrations of OTC required to suppress CLas populations in planta to below the detection limit are 0.68 and 0.86 µg/g and that the minimum concentrations of OTC required for initial inhibition of CLas growth in planta are ∼0.17 and ∼0.215 µg/g in leaf tissues under greenhouse and field conditions, respectively. This finding highlights that a minimum concentration of OTC should be guaranteed to be delivered to target CLas in infected plants for effective control of citrus HLB.