Integrated Transcriptome and Metabolome Analysis Reveals Phenylpropanoid Biosynthesis and Phytohormone Signaling Contribute to “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” Accumulation in Citrus Fruit Piths (Fluffy Albedo)
“Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (CLas) is a phloem-restricted α-proteobacterium that is associated with citrus huanglongbing (HLB), which is the most destructive disease that affects all varieties of citrus. Although midrib is usually used as a material for CLas detection, we recently found that the bacterium was enriched in fruits, especially in the fruit pith. However, no study has revealed the molecular basis of these two parts in responding to CLas infection. Therefore, we performed transcriptome and UHPLC–MS-based targeted and untargeted metabolomics analyses in order to organize the essential genes and metabolites that are involved. Transcriptome and metabolome characterized 4834 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and 383 differentially accumulated metabolites (DAMs) between the two materials, wherein 179 DEGs and 44 DAMs were affected by HLB in both of the tissues, involving the pathways of phenylpropanoid biosynthesis, phytohormone signaling transduction, starch and sucrose metabolism, and photosynthesis. Notably, we discovered that the gene expression that is related to beta-glucosidase and endoglucanase was up-regulated in fruits. In addition, defense-related gene expression and metabolite accumulation were significantly down-regulated in infected fruits. Taken together, the decreased amount of jasmonic acid, coupled with the reduced accumulation of phenylpropanoid and the increased proliferation of indole-3-acetic acid, salicylic acid, and abscisic acid, compared to leaf midribs, may contribute largely to the enrichment of CLas in fruit piths, resulting in disorders of photosynthesis and starch and sucrose metabolism.