First Report of the Citrus Huanglongbing Associated Bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ from Sweet Orange, Mexican Lime, and Asian Citrus Psyllid in Belize

Manjunath et al. (2010). Plant Disease 94 (6)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
The citrus industries of North and South America are endangered by Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, a devastating disease associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ and ‘Ca. L. americanus’, two species of fastidious phloem-limited bacteria spread by the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri, Kuwayama. The first reports of HLB from the Americas were from Brazil in 2004 followed by Florida in 2005 (3). The ACP was found in Belize in 2005 (S. Williams, personal communication) and is now present throughout Central America. On the basis of the report that the HLB-associated bacteria can be easily detected in the ACP vector (4), an initial sampling of ACP from 67 locations was collected in February 2009 from trees in the Belize, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, and Toledo Districts of Belize, and shipped in 95% ethanol to Riverside, CA for analysis. DNA was extracted from lots containing three to five psyllids from each of the 67 samples with Fast DNA kits (MP Biomedicals, Solon, OH) and analyzed by multiplex qPCR for ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ and ‘Ca. L. americanus’ with a Stratagene MX3005P thermocycler with primers and Taqman probes to detect the 16sRNA gene of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ or ‘Ca. L. americanus’ and a psyllid gene, wingless, as an internal control target (4). Nine of the sixty-seven psyllid extractions were clearly positive for ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ with cycle threshold values of 24 to 29. ‘Ca. L. americanus’ was not detected in any of the samples. From the districts previously sampled for ACP, leaves and fruit peduncles were collected from Citrus sinensis and C. aurantifolia plants showing HLB symptoms of asymmetrical leaf mottle and lopsided fruit with aborted seeds. DNA extracted from 10 of the 12 plant samples with a Qiagen Plant DNeasy kit (Qiagen Inc., Valencia, CA) was positive for ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ with the qPCR procedure of Li et al (3). The presence of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ in the positive plant and ACP samples was corroborated by amplification, cloning, and sequencing of a 1,168-bp region of the 16S rRNA gene (2) with SpeedSTAR HS DNA polymerase (TaKaRa Bio Inc., Shiga, Japan). Consensus sequences obtained from three clones each from psyllids (Accession No. GQ502291) and plants (Accession No. GU061003) showed >99% identity to corresponding regions of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ in GenBank. The presence of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ was further indicated by amplification of a 227-bp fragment from the same 10 positive plant samples using primers for the ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ preprotein translocase subunit SecE gene (nucleotides 31418 to 31644 of the genomic DNA) (1). Presence of trees with HLB symptoms and the detection of the associated ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ confirm the disease in the Cayo, Corozal, Stann Creek, and Toledo districts in Belize. Analyses of psyllids from limited surveys conducted from 2006 to 2008 had not detected ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ or ‘Ca. L. americanus’. Confirmation of HLB in Belize has significant implications to the citrus industries in Central America. References: (1) T. H. Hung et al. J. Phytopathol. 147:599, 1999. (2) S. Jagoueix et al. Mol. Cell. Probes 10:43, 1996. (3) W. Li et al. J. Microbiol. Methods 66:104, 2006. (4) K. L. Manjunath et al. Phytopathology 98:387, 2008.
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