“Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (CLas) is the causal agent of citrus Huanglongbing (HLB, also called citrus greening disease), a highly destructive disease threatening citrus production worldwide. A novel Microviridae phage (named CLasMV1) has been found to infect CLas, providing a potential therapeutic strategy for CLas/HLB control. However, little is known about the CLasMV1 biology. In this study, we analyzed the population dynamics of CLasMV1 between the insect vector of CLas, the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama) and the holoparasitic dodder plant (Cuscuta campestris Yunck.); both acquired CLasMV1-infected CLas from an HLB citrus. All CLas-positive dodder samples were CLasMV1-positive, whereas only 32% of CLas-positive ACP samples were identified as CLasMV1-positive. Quantitative analyses showed a similar distribution pattern of CLasMV1 phage and CLas among eight citrus cultivars by presenting at highest abundance in the fruit pith and/or the center axis of the fruit. Transcriptome analyses revealed the possible lytic activity of CLasMV1 on CLas in fruit pith as evidenced by high-level expressions of CLasMV1 genes, and CLas genes related to cell wall biogenesis and remodeling to maintain the CLas cell envelope integrity. The up-regulation of CLas genes were involved in restriction–modification system that could involve possible phage resistance for CLas during CLasMV1 infection. In addition, the regulation of CLas genes involved in cell surface components and Sec pathway by CLasMV1 phage could be beneficial for phage infection. This study expanded our knowledge of CLasMV1 phage that will benefit further CLas phage research and HLB control.
“Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (CLas) is an unculturable phloem-limited α-proteobacterium associated with citrus Huanglongbing (HLB; yellow shoot disease). HLB is currently threatening citrus production worldwide. Understanding the CLas biology is critical for HLB management. In this study, a novel single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) phage, CLasMV1, was identified in a CLas strain GDHZ11 from Guangdong Province of China through a metagenomic analysis. The CLasMV1 phage had a circular genome of 8,869 bp with eight open reading frames (ORFs). While six ORFs remain uncharacterized, ORF6 encoded a replication initiation protein (RIP), and ORF8 encoded a major capsid protein (MCP). Based on BLASTp search against GenBank database, amino acid sequences of both MCP and RIP shared similarities (coverage &gt; 50% and identity &gt; 25%) to those of phages in Microviridae, an ssDNA phage family. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that CLasMV1 MCP and RIP sequences were clustered with genes from CLas and “Ca. L. solanacearum” (CLso) genomes and formed a unique phylogenetic lineage, designated as a new subfamily Libervirinae, distinct to other members in Microviridae family. No complete integration form but partial sequence (∼1.9 kb) of CLasMV1 was found in the chromosome of strain GDHZ11. Read-mapping analyses on additional 15 HiSeq data sets of CLas strains showed that eight strains harbored complete CLasMV1 sequence with variations in single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and small sequence insertions/deletions (In/Dels). PCR tests using CLasMV1-specific primer sets detected CLasMV1 in 577 out of 1,006 CLas strains (57%) from southern China. This is the first report of Microviridae phage associated with CLas, which expands our understanding of phage diversity in CLas and facilitates current research in HLB.