Citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), is caused by the unculturable bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter spp. (e.g., CLas), and has caused a devastating decline in citrus production in many areas of the world. As of yet, there are no definitive treatments for controlling the disease. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that have the potential to block secretion-dependent effector proteins at the outer-membrane domains were screened in silico. Predictions of drug-receptor interactions were built using multiple in silico techniques, including molecular docking analysis, molecular dynamics, molecular mechanics generalized Born surface area analysis, and principal component analysis. The efflux pump TolC of the Type 1 secretion system interacted with natural bacteriocin plantaricin JLA-9, blocking the β barrel. The trajectory-based principal component analysis revealed the possible binding mechanism of the peptides. Furthermore, in vitro assays using two closely related culturable surrogates of CLas (Liberibacter crescens and Rhizobium spp.) showed that Plantaricin JLA-9 and two other screened AMPs inhibited bacterial growth and caused mortality. The findings contribute to designing effective therapies to manage plant diseases associated with Candidatus Liberibacter spp.
Citrus huanglongbing (HLB) is a destructive disease that causes significant damage to many citrus producing areas worldwide. To date, no strategy against this disease has been established. Inosine 5′-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) plays crucial roles in the de novo synthesis of guanine nucleotides. This enzyme is used as a potential target to treat bacterial infection. In this study, the crystal structure of a deletion mutant of CLas IMPDHΔ98-201 in the apo form was determined. Eight known bioactive compounds were used as ligands for molecular docking. The results showed that bronopol and disulfiram bound to CLas IMPDHΔ98-201 with high affinity. These compounds were tested for their inhibition against CLas IMPDHΔ98-201 activity. Bronopol and disulfiram showed high inhibition at nanomolar concentrations, and bronopol was found to be the most potent molecule (Ki = 234 nM). The Ki value of disulfiram was 616 nM. These results suggest that bronopol and disulfiram can be considered potential candidate agents for the development of CLas inhibitors.