‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (Las) is an emergent bacterial pathogen that is associated with the devastating citrus huanglongbing (HLB). Vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid, Las colonizes the phloem tissue of citrus, causing severe damage to infected trees. So far, cultivating pure Las culture in axenic media has not been successful, and dual-transcriptome analyses aiming to profile gene expression in both Las and its hosts have a low coverage of the Las genome because of the low abundance of bacterial RNA in total RNA extracts from infected tissues. Therefore, a lack of understanding of the Las transcriptome remains a significant knowledge gap. Here, we used a bacterial cell enrichment procedure and confidently determined the expression profiles of approximately 84% of the Las genes. Genes that exhibited high expression in citrus include transporters, ferritin, outer membrane porins, specific pilins, and genes involved in phage-related functions, cell wall modification, and stress responses. We also found 106 genes to be differentially expressed in citrus versus Asian citrus psyllids. Genes related to transcription or translation and resilience to host defense response were upregulated in citrus, whereas genes involved in energy generation and the flagella system were expressed to higher levels in psyllids. Finally, we determined the relative expression levels of potential Sec-dependent effectors, which are considered as key virulence factors of Las. This work advances our understanding of HLB biology and offers novel insight into the interactions of Las with its plant host and insect vector.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas), the devastating pathogen related to Huanglongbing (HLB), is a phloem-limited, fastidious, insect-borne bacterium. Rapid spread of HLB disease relies on CLas-efficient propagation in the vector, the Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri, in a circulative manner. Understanding the intracellular lifecycle of CLas in psyllid midgut, the major organ for CLas transmission, is fundamental to improving current management strategies. Using a microscopic approach within CLas-infected insect midgut, we observed the entry of CLas into gut cells inside vesicles, termed Liberibacter-containing vacuoles (LCVs), by endocytosis. Endocytosis is followed by the formation of endoplasmic reticulum-related and replication permissive vacuoles (rLCVs). Additionally, we observed the formation of double membrane autophagosome-like structure, termed autophagy-related vacuole (aLCV). Vesicles containing CLas egress from aLCV and fuse with the cell membrane. Immunolocalization studies showed that CLas uses endocytosis- and exocytosis-like mechanisms that mediates bacterial invasion and egress. Upregulation of autophagy-related genes indicated subversion of host autophagy by CLas in psyllid vector to promote infection. These results indicate that CLas interacts with host cellular machineries to undergo a multistage intracellular cycle through endocytic, secretory, autophagic, and exocytic pathways via complex machineries. Potential tactics for HLB control can be made depending on further investigations on the knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of CLas intracellular cycle.
Huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, is the most serious disease of citrus worldwide and is associated with plant infection by ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) and other Liberibacter species. CLas is transmitted by Diaphorina citri, the Asian citrus psyllid, in a circulative propagative manner. Circulative propagative transmission is a complex process comprising at least three steps: movement of the pathogen into vector tissues, translocation and replication of the pathogen within the vector host, and pathogen inoculation of a new host by the vector. In this work, we describe an excised leaf CLas acquisition assay, which enables precise measurements of CLas acquisition by D. citri in a streamlined laboratory assay. Briefly, healthy fourth and fifth instar D. citri nymphs acquire CLas from excised CLas-positive leaves, where the insects also complete their developmental cycle. CLas titer in the resulting adults is measured using quantitative PCR and CLas-specific 16S rRNA gene primers. We observed positive correlations between CLas titer in each leaf replicate and the CLas titer that developed in the insects after acquisition (rs = 0.78; P = 0.0002). This simple assay could be used to detect CLas acquisition phenotypes and their underlying genotypes, facilitate assessment of plant factors that impact acquisition, and screen for compounds that interfere with CLas acquisition by delivering these compounds through the excised leaf.
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.
Candidatus Liberibacter spp. are fastidious α-proteobacteria that cause multiple diseases on plant hosts of economic importance, including the most devastating citrus disease: Huanglongbing (HLB). HLB was reported in Asia a century ago but has since spread worldwide. Understanding the pathogenesis of Candidatus Liberibacter spp. remains challenging as they are yet to be cultured in artificial media and infect the phloem, a sophisticated environment that is difficult to manipulate. Despite those challenges, tremendous progress has been made on Ca. Liberibacter pathosystems. Here, we first reviewed recent studies on genetic information of flagellar and type IV pili biosynthesis, their expression profiles, and movement of Ca. Liberibacter spp. inside the plant and insect hosts. Next, we reviewed the transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic studies of susceptible and tolerant plant genotypes to Ca. Liberibacter spp. infection and how Ca. Liberibacter spp. adapt in plants. Analyses of the interactions between plants and Ca. Liberibacter spp. imply the involvement of immune response in the Ca. Liberibacter pathosystems. Lastly, we reviewed how Ca. Liberibacter spp. movement inside and interactions with plants lead to symptom development.
It has been nearly 100 years since citrus growers in two distinct regions in the northern provinces of South Africa noticed unusual symptoms in their citrus trees, causing significant crop losses. They had no idea that these symptoms would later become part of an almost global pandemic of a disease called greening or huanglongbing (HLB). The rapid spread of the disease indicated that it might be caused by a transmissible pathogen, but it took >50 years to identify the causative agent as ‘Candidatus Liberibacter africanus’. Recently, the disease appeared in more African countries, spreading by both infected planting material and Trioza erytreae. To date, five ‘Ca. L. africanus’ subspecies have been identified in various rutaceous species, with ‘Ca. L. africanus subsp. clausenae’ the only subspecies for which a biovar was detected in citrus. Efforts to detect and differentiate HLB-causing Liberibacter species are ongoing, and recent developments are discussed here. This review focuses on aspects of the African form of HLB, including its specific bacterial species and subspecies, its main insect vector, its geographic distribution, and current management strategies.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (Las) is the prominent species of Liberibacter associated with huanglongbing, a devastating disease of citrus worldwide. In this study, we report the identification of an ∼8.3-kb DNA region of the Las genome containing eight putative open reading frames flanked by two inverted repeats, which was not present in the Las str. psy62 genome. Comparisons with other genome sequences established this region as a unique genetic element associated with genome plasticity/instability. Primers specific for both the presence (Las wild type) and absence (Las mutant) of this region were designed to study the population dynamics and host adaptation of the two strains. Las populations with and/or without the wild-type strain were detected and differentiated in >2,300 samples that included psyllids, periwinkle, and several species of citrus. In psyllids, although a mixed population of the wild type and mutant was observed in most samples (88%), the wild-type Las was detected alone at a rate of 11%. In contrast, none of the infected citrus plants were positive for the wild type alone, which harbored either the mutant strain alone (8%) or a mixed population of the mutant and wild type (92%). Furthermore, the dynamics of these two major Las populations varied with different citrus hosts, whereas an in-depth study on grapefruit that did not rapidly succumb to disease revealed that the population of mutant alone increased with time, indicating that the absence of this genetic element is associated with the fitness of Las in planta under the selection pressure of its host.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, the putative causal agent of citrus greening, is not available in pure culture yet. In addition to trees of citrus and citrus relatives, ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ can grow in Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). Using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, we compared the phloem sap composition in sweet orange ‘Valencia’ (Citrus sinensis) and periwinkle plants after the infection with ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’. Interestingly, in contrast to our previous studies of total leaf metabolites, we found that, compared with uninfected phloem sap, the organic acids implicated in the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) cycle including citrate, isocitrate, succinate, fumarate, and malate were reduced significantly in the infected phloem saps of both species. As a result of the reduction of organic acids content, the pH of infected phloem saps was increased. We hypothesize that the bacterial growth induces the mitochondrial TCA cycle in parenchyma cells to produce more of these compounds to be used as a bacterial carbon source. Once these compounds reach a low level in the phloem sap, the bacterium may send a signal, yet to be identified, to initiate a feedback loop to further induce the TCA cycle. Phloem blockage might be another reason behind the reduced translocation of TCA cycle intermediates within the phloem. The net result, localized availability of organic acids, likely benefits bacterial growth and may explain the unequal distribution of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ within infected trees. These findings may help in designing media for the pure culturing of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ is associated with the devastating citrus disease Huanglongbing (HLB). It is transmitted by grafting infected material to healthy plants and by the feeding of the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri). Previously, we demonstrated that a metabolomics approach using proton-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy discriminates healthy from diseased plants via grafting. This work assessed the capability of this technology in discriminating healthy and diseased plants when the bacterium is vectored by psyllids. One-year-old greenhouse-grown ‘Lisbon’ lemon trees were exposed to either carrier psyllids (exposed, n = 10), or psyllids that were free of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (control, n = 6). Leaf metabolites were tracked for 1 year and disease diagnosis was made using quantitative PCR. Overall, 31 water-soluble metabolites were quantified in leaves, including four sugars and 12 amino acids. Analysis via nonmetric multidimensional scaling and principal component analysis revealed significant differences between the leaf metabolome of control versus infected trees beginning at 8 weeks postexposure, including alterations in glucose and quinic acid concentrations. These findings provide a longitudinal overview of the metabolic effects of HLB during the early phases of disease, and confirm previous experimental work demonstrating that infection elicits changes in the leaf metabolome that enables discrimination between healthy and infected plants. Here we demonstrate that the mode of inoculation (i.e., graft versus psyllid) results in a similar pathology.