Enhancing PCR Capacity To Detect ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ Utilizing Whole Genome Sequence Information

Bao et al. (2020). Plant Disease 104 (2)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) is an unculturable α-proteobacterium associated with citrus Huanglongbing (HLB; yellow shoot disease). PCR procedures that accurately confirm or exclude CLas infection in citrus tissue/Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) samples are critical for HLB management. When CLas was described in 1994, a 23-bp signature oligonucleotide sequence (OI1) in the 16S rRNA gene (rrs, three genomic copies) was identified based on Sanger sequencing. OI1 contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) distinguishing CLas from non-CLas species. The SNPs were used to design the primer HLBas, a key primer for a commonly used TaqMan PCR system (HLBas-PCR) for CLas detection. Recent developments in next-generation sequencing technology have led to the identification of 15 CLas whole genome sequence strains (WGSs). Analyses of CLas WGSs have generated a significant amount of biological information that could help to improve CLas detection. Utilizing the WGS information, this study re-evaluated the sequence integrity of OI1/HLBas and identified and/or confirmed a missing nucleotide G in the two primers. Replacement primers for OI1 and HLBas are proposed. At low cycle threshold (Ct) values (e.g., <30), HLBas-PCR remained reliable in CLas determination. At high Ct values (e.g., >30), HLBas-PCR alone was unreliable in differentiating whether samples contain low CLas titers or whether CLas is not present. The availability of ribonucleotide reductase (RNR)-PCR derived from the five-copy nrdB gene helped to resolve this problem. To further enhance low CLas titer detection, a 4CP-PCR system, based on a four-copy genomic locus, was developed. Evaluation of 107 HLB samples (94 citrus and 13 ACP) showed that 4CP-PCR was more sensitive than HLBas-PCR and shared similar sensitivity with RNR-PCR.
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