Thapa, Naweena

Publications (1)

Assessment of the Effect of Thermotherapy on ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ Viability in Woody Tissue of Citrus via Graft-Based Assays and RNA Assays

Thapa et al. (2021). Phytopathology® 111 (5)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
In 2019, citrus production in Florida declined by more than 70%, mostly because of Huanglongbing (HLB), which is caused by the bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas). Thermotherapy for HLB-affected trees was proposed as a short-term management solution to maintain field productivity. It was hypothesized that thermotherapy could eliminate HLB from affected branches; therefore, the study objectives were to show which time–temperature combinations eliminated CLas from woody tissues. Hardening, rounded Valencia twigs collected from HLB-affected field trees were treated in a steam chamber at different time–temperature combinations (50°C for 60 s; 55°C for 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 s; 60°C for 30 s; and an untreated control). Three independent repetitions of 13 branches per treatment were grafted onto healthy rootstocks and tested to detect CLas after 6, 9, and 12 months. For the RNA-based CLas viability assay, three branches per treatment were treated and bark samples were peeled for RNA extraction and subsequent gene expression analyses. During the grafting study, at 12 months after grafting, a very low frequency of trees grafted with twigs treated at 55°C for 90 s and 55°C for 120 s had detectable CLas DNA. In the few individuals with CLas, titers were significantly lower (P ≤ 0.0001) and could have been remnants of degrading DNA. Additionally, there was a significant decrease (P ≤ 0.0001) in CLas 16S rRNA expression at 55°C for 90 s, 55°C for 120 s, and 60°C for 30 s (3.4-fold change, 3.4-fold change, and 2.3-fold change, respectively) in samples 5 days after treatment. Heat injury, not total CLas kill, could explain the limited changes in transcriptional activity; however, failed recovery and eventual death of CLas resulted in no CLas detection in most of the grafted trees treated with the highest temperatures or longest durations.