Probing the Application of OmpA-Derived Peptides to Disrupt the Acquisition of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ by Diaphorina citri

Merfa e Silva et al. (2022). Phytopathology® 112 (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus Ca. Liberibacter americanus
Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
Huanglongbing (HLB) is currently the most devastating disease of citrus worldwide. Both bacteria ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) and ‘Candidatus Liberibacter americanus’ (CLam) are associated with HLB in Brazil but with a strong prevalence of CLas over CLam. Conventionally, HLB management focuses on controlling the insect vector population (Diaphorina citri; also known as Asian citrus psyllid [ACP]) by spraying insecticides, an approach demonstrated to be mostly ineffective. Thus, development of novel, more efficient HLB control strategies is required. The multifunctional bacterial outer membrane protein OmpA is involved in several molecular processes between bacteria and their hosts and has been suggested as a target for bacterial control. Curiously, OmpA is absent in CLam in comparison with CLas, suggesting a possible role in host interaction. Therefore, in the current study, we have treated ACPs with different OmpA-derived peptides, aiming to evaluate acquisition of CLas by the insect vector. Treatment of psyllids with 5 µM of Pep1, Pep3, Pep5, and Pep6 in artificial diet significantly reduced the acquisition of CLas, whereas increasing the concentration of Pep5 and Pep6 to 50 µM abolished this process. In addition, in planta treatment with 50 µM of Pep6 also significantly decreased the acquisition of CLas, and sweet orange plants stably absorbed and maintained this peptide for as long as 3 months post the final application. Together, our results demonstrate the promising use of OmpA-derived peptides as a novel biotechnological tool to control CLas.
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