‘Candidatus Phytoplasma mali’ (‘Ca. P. mali’) has only one major membrane protein, the immunodominant membrane protein (Imp), which is regarded as being close to the ancestor of all phytoplasma immunodominant membrane proteins. Imp binds to actin and possibly facilitates its movement in the plant or insect host cells. However, protein sequences of Imp are quite diverse among phytoplasma species, thus resulting in difficulties in identifying conserved domains across species. In this work, we compare Imp protein sequences of ‘Ca. P. mali’ strain PM19 (Imp-PM19) with Imp of different strains of ‘Ca. P. mali’ and identify its actin-binding domain. Moreover, we show that Imp binds to the actin of apple (Malus x domestica), which is the host plant of ‘Ca. P. mali’. Using molecular and scanning force spectroscopy analysis, we find that the actin-binding domain of Imp-PM19 contains a highly positively charged amino acid cluster. Our result could allow investigating a possible correlation between Imp variants and the infectivity of the corresponding ‘Ca. P. mali’ isolates.
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.
“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.
“Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (CLas) is the causal agent of citrus Huanglongbing (HLB, also called citrus greening disease), a highly destructive disease threatening citrus production worldwide. A novel Microviridae phage (named CLasMV1) has been found to infect CLas, providing a potential therapeutic strategy for CLas/HLB control. However, little is known about the CLasMV1 biology. In this study, we analyzed the population dynamics of CLasMV1 between the insect vector of CLas, the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama) and the holoparasitic dodder plant (Cuscuta campestris Yunck.); both acquired CLasMV1-infected CLas from an HLB citrus. All CLas-positive dodder samples were CLasMV1-positive, whereas only 32% of CLas-positive ACP samples were identified as CLasMV1-positive. Quantitative analyses showed a similar distribution pattern of CLasMV1 phage and CLas among eight citrus cultivars by presenting at highest abundance in the fruit pith and/or the center axis of the fruit. Transcriptome analyses revealed the possible lytic activity of CLasMV1 on CLas in fruit pith as evidenced by high-level expressions of CLasMV1 genes, and CLas genes related to cell wall biogenesis and remodeling to maintain the CLas cell envelope integrity. The up-regulation of CLas genes were involved in restriction–modification system that could involve possible phage resistance for CLas during CLasMV1 infection. In addition, the regulation of CLas genes involved in cell surface components and Sec pathway by CLasMV1 phage could be beneficial for phage infection. This study expanded our knowledge of CLasMV1 phage that will benefit further CLas phage research and HLB control.
Huanglongbing (otherwise known as HLB or greening) is currently the most devastating citrus disease worldwide. HLB is primarily associated with the phloem-inhabiting bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas). Currently, there are no citrus species resistant to CLas. Genetic transformation is one of the most effective approaches used to induce resistance against plant diseases. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) have shown potential breakthroughs to improve resistance to bacterial diseases in plants. In this paper, we confirm the Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of Pera sweet orange expressing the AMP sarcotoxin IA (stx IA) gene isolated from the flesh fly Sarcophaga peregrina and its reaction to CLas, involving plant performance and fruit quality assessments. Four independent transgenic lines, STX-5, STX-11, STX-12, and STX-13, and a non-transgenic control, were graft-inoculated with CLas. Based on our findings, none of the transgenic plants were immune to CLas. However, the STX-5 and STX-11 lines showed reduced susceptibility to HLB with mild disease symptoms and low incidence of plants with the presence of CLas. Fruit and juice quality were not affected by the genetic transformation. Further, no residues of the sarcotoxin IA protein were found in the juice of the STX-11 and STX-12 fruits, though detected in the juice of the STX-5 and STX-13 lines, as revealed by the immunoblotting test. However, juices from all transgenic lines showed low traces of sarcotoxin IA peptide in its composition. The accumulation of this peptide did not cause any deleterious effects on plants or in fruit/juice. Our findings reinforce the challenges of identifying novel approaches to managing HLB.
The citrus industry has been threatened by Huanglongbing (HLB) for over a century. Here, an HLB-induced Arabidopsis RPM1-interacting protein 4 (RIN4) homologous gene was cloned from Citrus clementina, and its characteristics and function were analyzed to determine its role during citrus–Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) interactions. Quantitative real-time PCR showed that RIN4 was expressed in roots, stems, leaves and flowers, with the greatest expression level in leaves. Its expression was suppressed by gibberellic acid, indole-3-acetic acid, salicylic acid and jasmonic acid treatments, but was induced by abscisic acid and salt treatments, as well as wounding. The transient expression of a RIN4-GFP showed that RIN4 was localized in the cell membrane. RIN4-overexpressing transgenic C. maxima cv. ‘Shatianyou’ plants were obtained, and some transgenic plants showed greater sensitivity to CLas infection and earlier HLB symptoms appearance than non-transgenic controls. Results obtained in this study indicated that the upregulated expression of RIN4 in HLB diseased citrus may aid CLas infection.
FtsZ, the bacterial tubulin-homolog, plays a central role in cell division and polymerizes into a ring-like structure at midcell to coordinate other cell division proteins. The rod-shaped gamma-proteobacterium Candidatus Thiosymbion oneisti has a medial discontinuous ellipsoidal “Z-ring.” Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ shows temperature-sensitive characteristics when it is expressed in Escherichia coli, where it localizes at midcell. The overexpression of Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ interferes with cell division and results in filamentous cells. In addition, it forms ring- and barrel-like structures independently of E. coli FtsZ, which suggests that the difference in shape and size of the Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ ring is likely the result of its interaction with Z-ring organizing proteins. Similar to some temperature-sensitive alleles of E. coli FtsZ, Ca. T. oneisti FtsZ has a weak GTPase and does not polymerize in vitro. The temperature sensitivity of Ca. Thiosymbion oneisti FtsZ is likely an adaptation to the preferred temperature of less than 30 °C of its host, the nematode Laxus oneistus.
Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, also known as citrus greening disease, was first reported in the US in 2005. Since then, the disease has decimated the citrus industry in Florida, resulting in billions of dollars in crop losses and the destruction of thousands of acres of citrus groves. The causative agent of citrus greening disease is the phloem limited pathogen Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. As it has not been cultured, very little is known about the structural biology of the organism. Liberibacter are part of the Rhizobiaceae family, which includes nitrogen-fixing symbionts of legumes as well as the Agrobacterium plant pathogens. To better understand the Liberibacter genus, a closely related culturable bacterium (Liberibacter crescens or Lcr) has attracted attention as a model organism for structural and functional genomics of Liberibacters. Given that the structure of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) from Gram-negative bacteria plays a crucial role in mediating host-pathogen interactions, we sought to characterize the LPS from Lcr. We found that the major lipid A component of the LPS consisted of a pentaacylated molecule with a β-6-GlcN disaccharide backbone lacking phosphate. The polysaccharide portion of the LPS was unusual compared to previously described members of the Rhizobiaceae family in that it contained ribofuranosyl residues. The LPS structure presented here allows us to extrapolate known LPS structure/function relationships to members of the Liberibacter genus which cannot yet be cultured. It also offers insights into the biology of the organism and how they manage to effectively attack citrus trees.
Bois noir is the most widespread phytoplasma grapevine disease in Europe. It is associated with ‘Candidatus Phytoplasma solani’, but molecular interactions between the causal pathogen and its host plant are not well understood. In this work, we combined the analysis of high-throughput RNA-Seq and sRNA-Seq data with interaction network analysis for finding new cross-talks among pathways involved in infection of grapevine cv. Zweigelt with ‘Ca. P. solani’ in early and late growing seasons. While the early growing season was very dynamic at the transcriptional level in asymptomatic grapevines, the regulation at the level of small RNAs was more pronounced later in the season when symptoms developed in infected grapevines. Most differentially expressed small RNAs were associated with biotic stress. Our study also exposes the less-studied role of hormones in disease development and shows that hormonal balance was already perturbed before symptoms development in infected grapevines. Analysis at the level of communities of genes and mRNA-microRNA interaction networks revealed several new genes (e.g., expansins and cryptdin) that have not been associated with phytoplasma pathogenicity previously. These novel actors may present a new reference framework for research and diagnostics of phytoplasma diseases of grapevine.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) is the pathogenic bacterium that causes the disease Huanglongbing (HLB) in citrus and some model plants, such as Nicotiana benthamiana. After infection, CLas releases a set of effectors to modulate host responses. One of these critical effectors is Sec-delivered effector 1 (SDE1), which induces chlorosis and cell death in N. benthamiana. In this study, we revealed the DEAD-box RNA helicase (DDX3) interacts with SDE1. Gene silencing study revealed that knockdown of the NbDDX3 gene triggers leaf chlorosis, mimicking the primary symptom of CLas infection in N. benthamiana. The interactions between SDE1 and NbDDX3 were localized in the cell membrane. Overexpression of SDE1 resulted in suppression of NbDDX3 gene expression in N. benthamiana, which suggests a critical role of SDE1 in modulating NbDDX3 expression. Furthermore, we verified the interaction of SDE1 with citrus DDX3 (CsDDX3), and demonstrated that the expression of the CsDDX3 gene was significantly reduced in HLB-affected yellowing and mottled leaves of citrus. Thus, we provide molecular evidence that the downregulation of the host DDX3 gene is a crucial mechanism of leaf chlorosis in HLB-affected plants. The identification of CsDDX3 as a critical target of SDE1 and its association with HLB symptom development indicates that the DDX3 gene is an important target for gene editing, to interrupt the interaction between DDX3 and SDE1, and therefore interfere host susceptibility.