Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB), caused by “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (CLas), is the most destructive disease threatening global citrus industry. Most commercial cultivars were susceptible to HLB, although some showed tolerant to HLB phenotypically. Identifying tolerant citrus genotypes and understanding the mechanism correlated with tolerance to HLB is essential for breeding citrus variety tolerance/resistance to HLB. In this study, the graft assay with CLas-infected bud were performed in four citrus genotypes, including Citrus reticulata Blanco, C. sinensis, C. limon, and C. maxima. HLB tolerance was observed in C. limon and C. maxima, while C. Blanco and C. sinensis were susceptible to HLB. The time-course transcriptomic analysis revealed a significant variation in differentially expressed genes (DEGs) related to HLB between susceptible and tolerant cultivar group at early and late infection stage. Functional analysis of DEGs indicated that the activation of genes involved in SA-mediated defense response, PTI, cell wall associated immunity, endochitinase, phenylpropanoid and alpha-linolenic/linoleic lipid metabolism played an important in the tolerance of C. limon and C. maxima to HLB at early infection stage. In addition, the overactive plant defense combined with the stronger antibacterial activity (antibacterial secondary and lipid metabolism) and the suppression of pectinesterase were contributed to the long-term tolerance to HLB in C. limon and C. maxima at late infection stage. Particularly, the activation of ROS scavenging genes (catalases and ascorbate peroxidases) could help to reduce HLB symptoms in tolerant cultivars. In contrast, the overexpression of genes involved in oxidative burst and ethylene metabolism, as well as the late inducing of defense related genes could lead to the early HLB symptom development in susceptible cultivars at early infection stage. The weak defense response and antibacterial secondary metabolism, and the induce of pectinesterase were responsible for sensitivity to HLB in C. reticulata Blanco and C. sinensis at late infection stage. This study provided new insights into the tolerance/sensitivity mechanism against HLB and valuable guidance for breeding of HLB-tolerant/resistant cultivars.
“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.