The tomato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli Šulc (Hemiptera: Triozidae), is a pest of solanaceous crops such as tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) in the U.S. and vectors the disease-causing pathogen ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ (or Lso). Disease symptom severity is dependent on Lso haplotype: tomato plants infected with Lso haplotype B experience more severe symptoms and higher mortality compared to plants infected with Lso haplotype A. By characterizing the molecular differences in the tomato plant’s responses to Lso haplotypes, the key components of LsoB virulence can be identified and, thus, targeted for disease mitigation strategies.
To characterize the tomato plant genes putatively involved in the differential immune responses to Lso haplotypes A and B, RNA was extracted from tomato ‘Moneymaker’ leaves 3 weeks after psyllid infestation. Gene expression levels were compared between uninfected tomato plants (i.e., controls and plants infested with Lso-free psyllids) and infected plants (i.e., plants infested with psyllids infected with either Lso haplotype A or Lso haplotype B). Furthermore, expression levels were compared between plants infected with Lso haplotype A and plants infected with Lso haplotype B. A whole transcriptome analysis identified 578 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between uninfected and infected plants as well as 451 DEGs between LsoA- and LsoB-infected plants. These DEGs were primarily associated with plant defense against abiotic and biotic stressors, growth/development, plant primary metabolism, transport and signaling, and transcription/translation. These gene expression changes suggested that tomato plants traded off plant growth and homeostasis for improved defense against pathogens, especially when infected with LsoB. Consistent with these results, tomato plant growth experiments determined that LsoB-infected plants were significantly stunted and had impaired negative geotropism. However, it appeared that the defense responses mounted by tomatoes were insufficient for overcoming the disease symptoms and mortality caused by LsoB infection, while these defenses could compensate for LsoA infection.
The transcriptomic analysis and growth experiments demonstrated that Lso-infected tomato plants underwent gene expression changes related to abiotic and biotic stressors, impaired growth/development, impaired plant primary metabolism, impaired transport and signaling transduction, and impaired transcription/translation. Furthermore, the transcriptomic analysis also showed that LsoB-infected plants, relative to LsoA-infected, experienced more severe stunting, had improved responses to some stressors and impaired responses to others, had poorer transport and signaling transduction, and had impaired carbohydrate synthesis and photosynthesis.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is a destructive citrus disease that affects citrus production worldwide. ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas), a phloem-limited bacterium, is the associated causal agent of HLB. The current standard for detection of CLas is real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) using either the CLas 16S rRNA gene or the ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) gene-specific primers/probe. qPCR requires well-equipped laboratories and trained personnel, which is not convenient for rapid field detection of CLas-infected trees. Recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) assay is a fast, portable alternative to PCR-based diagnostic methods. In this study, an RPA assay was developed to detect CLas in crude citrus extracts utilizing isothermal amplification, without the need for DNA purification. Primers were designed to amplify a region of the CLas RNR gene, and a fluorescent labeled probe allowed for detection of the amplicon in real-time within 8 mins at 39°C. The assay was specific to CLas, and the sensitivity was comparable to qPCR, with a detection limit cycle threshold of 34. Additionally, the RPA assay was combined with a lateral flow device for a point-of-use assay that is field deployable. Both assays were 100% accurate in detecting CLas in fresh citrus crude extracts from leaf midribs and roots from five California strains of CLas tested in the Contained Research Facility in Davis, California. This assay will be important for distinguishing CLas-infected trees in California from those infected by other pathogens that cause similar disease symptoms and can help control HLB spread.
In China, citrus Huanglongbing (HLB) disease is caused by the Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus bacterium, which is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri Kuwayama. It was hypothesized that the epidemic of the HLB may related with the rate of bacterium presence in the insect vector and bacterium content in plant tissues, as well as the phyllosphere microbe communities changes. This study systematically analyzed the presence or absence of Ca. L. asiaticus in citrus tree leaves and in the insect vector D. citri over a 6-year period using real-time PCR. In addition, changes in the number of bacteria carried by D. citri over 12 months were quantified, as well as the relationship between the proportion of D. citri carrying Ca. L. asiaticus and the proportion of plants infected with Ca. L. asiaticus were analyzed. Results showed that the proportion of D. citri carrying bacteria was stable and relatively low from January to September. The bacteria in citrus leaves relatively low in spring and summer, then peaked in December. The proportion of D. citri carrying bacteria gradually declined from 2014 to 2019. The proportion of D. citri carrying Ca. L. asiaticus showed a significant positive correlation with the proportion of diseased citrus. The phyllosphere bacterial and fungal communities on the healthy citrus leaf were significantly different with the disease leaf in April and December. Pathogenic invasions change the citrus phyllosphere microbial community structure. It could be summarized that citrus Huanglongbing correlated with incidence of Diaphorina citri carrying Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus and citrus phyllosphere microbiome.