‘Candidatus Phytoplasma pruni’ infection in cherries causes small, misshapen fruit with poor color and taste, rendering the fruit unmarketable. However, this is a disease with a long development cycle and a scattered, nonuniform symptom distribution in the early stages. To better understand the biology as well as the relationship between pathogen titer and disease expression, we carried out seasonal, spatial, and temporal examinations of ‘Ca. P. pruni’ titer and distribution in infected orchard-grown trees. Sequential sampling of heavily infected trees revealed marked seasonal patterns, with differential accumulation in woody stem and leaf tissues and, most notably, within fruit in the early stages of development from bloom to pit hardening. Furthermore, mapping phytoplasma distribution and titer in trees at different stages of infection indicated that infection proceeds through a series of stages. Initially, infection spreads basipetally and accumulates in the roots before populating aerial parts of the trees from the trunk upward, with infection of specific tissues and limbs followed by an increasing phytoplasma titer. Finally, we observed a correlation between phytoplasma titer and symptom severity, with severe symptom onset associated with three to four orders of magnitude more phytoplasma than mild symptoms. Cumulatively, these data aid in accurate sampling and management decision-making and furthers our understanding of disease development.
Citrus huanglongbing (HLB) is present in 10 provinces in China and is associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas), which is transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri, ACP). To date, HLB and ACP have expanded to Yibin city of Sichuan Province, posing an imminent threat to the citrus belt of the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River, an important late-maturing citrus-producing area in China. To understand the epidemiological route of CLas and ACP in newly invaded regions of Sichuan and thereby better establish an HLB interception zone ranging from Leibo to Yibin, we evaluated the molecular variability of 19 CLas draft genomes from citrus or dodder (Cuscuta campestris). They include three type-specific prophage loci, three variable number tandem repeat loci, a miniature inverted-repeat transposable element, and population diversity of 44 ACP mitochondrial genomes. The results indicated that CLas isolates in the newly invaded area (Pingshan) were more diverse than those in the HLB endemic areas (Leibo and Ningnan). Phylogenetic analysis based on mitochondrial genomes demonstrated that ACPs in Leibo, Pingshan, and Xuzhou (rural areas) represent a new mitochondrial group (MG4), distinguished by the three unique single-nucleotide polymorphisms in cox1, nad4, and cytb. However, the ACPs sampled from the urban areas of Cuiping and Xuzhou belonged to the southeastern China group (MG2-1). Altogether, our study revealed multiple sources of ACP and CLas in the HLB interception zone and proposed their transmission route. This study contributes to the formulation of precise HLB prevention and control strategies in the HLB interception zone in Sichuan and could be useful for HLB management efforts in other regions.