The nonculturable bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ is the causative agent of zebra chip disease in potato. Computational analysis of the ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ genome revealed a serralysin-like gene based on conserved domains characteristic of genes encoding metalloprotease enzymes similar to serralysin. Serralysin and other serralysin family metalloprotease are typically characterized as virulence factors and are secreted by the type I secretion system (T1SS). The ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ serralysin-like gene is located next to and divergently transcribed from genes encoding a T1SS. Based on its relationship to the T1SS and the role of other serralysin family proteases in circumventing host antimicrobial defenses, it was speculated that a functional ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ serralysin-like protease could be a potent virulence factor. Gene expression analysis showed that, from weeks 2 to 6, the expression of the ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ serralysin-like gene was at least twofold higher than week 1, indicating that gene expression stays high as the disease progresses. A previously constructed serralysin-deficient mutant of Serratia liquefaciens FK01, an endophyte associated with insects, as well as an Escherichia coli lacking serralysin production were used as surrogates for expression analysis of the ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ serralysin-like gene. The LsoA and LsoB proteins were expressed as both intact proteins and chimeric S. liquefaciens-‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ serralysin-like proteins to facilitate secretion in the S. liquefaciens surrogate and as intact proteins or as a truncated LsoB protein containing just the putative catalytic domains in the E. coli surrogate. None of the ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ protein constructs expressed in either surrogate demonstrated proteolytic activity in skim milk or zymogram assays, or in colorimetric assays using purified protein, suggesting that the ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ serralysin-like gene does not encode a functional protease, or at least not in our surrogate systems.
Zebra chip disease of potato is caused by the bacterial pathogen ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ and is a growing concern for commercial potato production in several countries in North and Central America and New Zealand. ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ is vectored by the potato psyllid Bactericera cockerelli, which transmits the pathogen to several cultivated and wild solanaceaous host plants. Silverleaf nightshade (SLN), Solanum elaeagnifolium, is a common weed in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and a host for both the potato psyllid and ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’. SLN plants were successfully inoculated with ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ under laboratory conditions. Retention studies demonstrated that ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’-infected SLN planted in the field in January 2013, concurrent with commercial potato planting, retained the pathogen under field conditions throughout the year despite extensive dieback during summer. The presence of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ was confirmed in leaves, roots, and stolons of SLN plants collected the following year using polymerase chain reaction. Acquisition assays using B. cockerelli adults also revealed that SLN retained the pathogen. Transmission studies determined that B. cockerelli can acquire ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ within a 2-week acquisition access period on ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’-infected SLN and subsequently transmit the pathogen to potato. These results demonstrate that SLN plants can serve as a reservoir for ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’, providing a source of inoculum for B. cockerelli adults colonizing potato the next season. The presence of SLN plants all year round in the LRGV makes the weed an epidemiologically important host. These findings underscore the importance of eradicating or managing SLN plants growing in the vicinity of potato fields to prevent spread of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ and damage caused by zebra chip.
This study reports the development of a loop-mediated isothermal amplification procedure (LAMP) for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based detection of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’, the bacterial causal agent of potato zebra chip (ZC) disease. The 16S rDNA gene of ‘Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum’ was used to design a set of six primers for LAMP PCR detection of the bacterial pathogen in potato plants and the psyllid vector. The advantage of the LAMP method is that it does not require a thermocycler for amplification or agarose gel electrophoresis for resolution. Positive LAMP results can be visualized directly as a precipitate. The LAMP strategy reported here reliably detected ‘Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum’ and the closely related species ‘Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus’, the causative agent of huanglongbing disease of citrus, in plant DNA extracts. Although not as sensitive as quantitative real-time PCR, LAMP detection was equivalent to conventional PCR in tests of ZC-infected potato plants from the field. Thus, the LAMP method shows strong promise as a reliable, rapid, and cost-effective method of detecting ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ pathogens in psyllids and field-grown potato plants and tubers.