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.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is a devastating citrus disease that has caused massive economic losses to the citrus industry worldwide. The disease is endemic in most citrus-producing areas of southern China, especially in the sweet orange orchards where soil acidification has intensified. In this work, we used lime as soil pH amendment to optimize soil pH and enhance the endurance capacity of citrus against Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). The results showed that regulation of soil acidity is effective to reduce the occurrence of new infections and mitigate disease severity in the presence of HLB disease. We also studied the associated molecular mechanism and found that acid soil improvement can (i) increase the root metabolic activity and up-regulate the expression of ion transporter-related genes in HLB-infected roots, (ii) alleviate the physiological disorders of sieve tube blockage of HLB-infected leaves, (iii) strengthen the citrus immune response by increasing the expression of genes involved in SAR and activating the salicylic acid signal pathway, (iv) up-regulate 55 proteins related to stress/defence response and secondary metabolism. This study contributes to a better understanding of the correlation between environment factors and HLB disease outbreaks and also suggests that acid soil improvement is of potential value for the management of HLB disease in southern China.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) is one of the causal agents of citrus Huanglongbing (HLB), a bacterial disease of citrus trees that greatly reduces fruit yield and quality. CLas strains produce an array of currently uncharacterized Sec-dependent secretory proteins. In this study, the conserved chromosomally encoded protein CLIBASIA_03875 was identified as a novel Sec-dependent secreted protein. We show that CLIBASIA_03875 contains a putative Sec- secretion signal peptide (SP), a 29 amino acid residue located at the N-terminus, with a mature protein (m3875) of 22 amino acids found to localize in multiple subcellular components of the leaf epidermal cells of Nicotiana benthamiana. When overexpressed via a Potato virus X (PVX)-based expression vector in N. benthamiana, m3875 suppressed programmed cell death (PCD) and the H2O2 accumulation triggered by the pro-apoptotic mouse protein BAX and the Phytophthora infestans elicitin INF1. Overexpression also resulted in a phenotype of dwarfing, leaf deformation and mosaics, suggesting that m3875 has roles in plant immune response, growth, and development. Substitution mutagenesis of the charged amino acid (D7, R9, R11, and K22) with alanine within m3875 did not recover the phenotypes for PCD and normal growth. In addition, the transiently overexpressed m3875 regulated the transcriptional levels of N. benthamiana orthologs of CNGCs (cyclic nucleotide-gated channels), BI-1 (Bax-inhibitor 1), and WRKY33 that are involved in plant defense mechanisms. To our knowledge, m3875 is the first PCD suppressor identified from CLas. Studying the function of this protein provides insight as to how CLas attenuates the host immune responses to proliferate and cause Huanglongbing disease in citrus plants.
Huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening, is the most destructive disease of citrus worldwide. HLB is associated with the non-culturable bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CaLas) in the United States. The virulence mechanism of CaLas is largely unknown, partly because of the lack of a mutant library. In this study, Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and Nicotiana benthamiana (N. benthamiana) were used for large-scale screening of the virulence factors of CaLas. Agroinfiltration of 60 putative virulence factors in N. benthamiana led to the identification of four candidates that caused severe symptoms in N. benthamiana, such as growth inhibition and cell death. CLIBASIA_05150 and CLIBASIA_04065C (C-terminal of CLIBASIA_04065) could cause cell death in the infiltrated leaves at five days post infiltration. Two low-molecular-weight candidates, CLIBASIA_00470 and CLIBASIA_04025, could inhibit plant growth. By converting start codon to stop codon or frameshifting, the four genes lost their harmful effects to N. benthamiana. It indicated that the four virulence factors functioned at the protein level rather than at the RNA level. The subcellular localization of the four candidates was determined by confocal laser scanning microscope. CLIBASIA_05150 located in the Golgi apparatus; CLIBASIA_04065 located in the mitochondrion; CLIBASIA_00470 and CLIBASIA_04025 distributed in cells as free GFP. The host proteins interacting with the four virulence factors were identified by yeast two-hybrid. The host proteins interacting with CLIBASIA_00470 and CLIBASIA_04025 were overlapping. Based on the phenotypes, the subcellular localization and the host proteins identified by yeast two-hybrid, CLIBASIA_00470 and CLIBASIA_04025, functioned redundantly. The hypothesis of CaLas virulence was proposed. CaLas affects citrus development and suppresses citrus disease resistance, comprehensively, in a complicated manner. Ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation might play a vital role in CaLas virulence. Deep characterization of the interactions between the identified virulence factors and their prey will shed light on HLB. Eventually, it will help in developing HLB-resistant citrus and save the endangered citrus industry worldwide.