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1.  Induced Release of a Plant-Defense Volatile ‘Deceptively’ Attracts Insect Vectors to Plants Infected with a Bacterial Pathogen 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(3):e1002610.
Transmission of plant pathogens by insect vectors is a complex biological process involving interactions between the plant, insect, and pathogen. Pathogen-induced plant responses can include changes in volatile and nonvolatile secondary metabolites as well as major plant nutrients. Experiments were conducted to understand how a plant pathogenic bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (Las), affects host preference behavior of its psyllid (Diaphorina citri Kuwayama) vector. D. citri were attracted to volatiles from pathogen-infected plants more than to those from non-infected counterparts. Las-infected plants were more attractive to D. citri adults than non-infected plants initially; however after feeding, psyllids subsequently dispersed to non-infected rather than infected plants as their preferred settling point. Experiments with Las-infected and non-infected plants under complete darkness yielded similar results to those recorded under light. The behavior of psyllids in response to infected versus non-infected plants was not influenced by whether or not they were carriers of the pathogen. Quantification of volatile release from non-infected and infected plants supported the hypothesis that odorants mediate psyllid preference. Significantly more methyl salicylate, yet less methyl anthranilate and D-limonene, was released by infected than non-infected plants. Methyl salicylate was attractive to psyllids, while methyl anthranilate did not affect their behavior. Feeding on citrus by D. citri adults also induced release of methyl salicylate, suggesting that it may be a cue revealing location of conspecifics on host plants. Infected plants were characterized by lower levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, zinc, and iron, as well as, higher levels of potassium and boron than non-infected plants. Collectively, our results suggest that host selection behavior of D. citri may be modified by bacterial infection of plants, which alters release of specific headspace volatiles and plant nutritional contents. Furthermore, we show in a laboratory setting that this apparent pathogen-mediated manipulation of vector behavior may facilitate pathogen spread.
Author Summary
In this investigation, we experimentally demonstrate specific mechanisms through which a bacterial plant pathogen induces plant responses that modify behavior of its insect vector. Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, a fastidious, phloem-limited bacterium responsible for causing huanglongbing disease of citrus, induced release of a specific volatile chemical, methyl salicylate, which increased attractiveness of infected plants to its insect vector, Diaphorina citri, and caused vectors to initially prefer infected plants. However, the insect vectors subsequently dispersed to non-infected plants as their preferred location of prolonged settling because of likely sub-optimal nutritional content of infected plants. The duration of initial feeding on infected plants was sufficiently long for the vectors to acquire the pathogen before they dispersed to non-infected plants, suggesting that the bacterial pathogen manipulates behavior of its insect vector to promote its own proliferation. The behavior of psyllids in response to infected versus non-infected plants was not influenced by whether or not they were carriers of the pathogen and was similar under both light and dark conditions. Feeding on citrus by D. citri adults also induced the release of methyl salicylate, suggesting that it may be a cue revealing location of conspecifics on host plants.
PMCID: PMC3310815  PMID: 22457628
2.  Stylet Morphometrics and Citrus Leaf Vein Structure in Relation to Feeding Behavior of the Asian Citrus Psyllid Diaphorina citri, Vector of Citrus Huanglongbing Bacterium 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59914.
The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri (Hemiptera: Psyllidae), is the primary vector of the phloem-limited bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (LAS) associated with huanglongbing (HLB, citrus greening), considered the world’s most serious disease of citrus. Stylet morphometrics of ACP nymphs and adults were studied in relation to citrus vein structure and to their putative (histologically verified) feeding sites on Valencia orange leaves. ACP nymphs preferred to settle and feed on the lower (abaxial) side of young leaves either on secondary veins or on the sides of the midrib, whereas adults preferred to settle and feed on the upper (adaxial) or lower secondary veins of young or old leaves. Early instar nymphs can reach and probe the phloem probably because the distance to the phloem is considerably shorter in younger than in mature leaves, and is shorter from the sides of the midrib compared to that from the center. Additionally, the thick-walled ‘fibrous ring’ (sclerenchyma) around the phloem, which may act as a barrier to ACP stylet penetration into the phloem, is more prominent in older than in younger leaves and in the center than on the sides of the midrib. The majority (80–90%) of the salivary sheath termini produced by ACP nymphs and adults that reached a vascular bundle were associated with the phloem, whereas only 10–20% were associated with xylem vessels. Ultrastructural studies on ACP stylets and LAS-infected leaves suggested that the width of the maxillary food canal in first instar nymphs is wide enough for LAS bacteria to traverse during food ingestion (and LAS acquisition). However, the width of the maxillary salivary canal in these nymphs may not be wide enough to accommodate LAS bacteria during salivation (and LAS inoculation) into host plants. This may explain the inability of early instar nymphs to transmit LAS/HLB in earlier reports.
PMCID: PMC3608565  PMID: 23555830
3.  Comparison of Potato and Asian Citrus Psyllid Adult and Nymph Transcriptomes Identified Vector Transcripts with Potential Involvement in Circulative, Propagative Liberibacter Transmission 
Pathogens  2014;3(4):875-907.
The potato psyllid (PoP) Bactericera cockerelli (Sulc) and Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) Diaphorina citri Kuwayama are the insect vectors of the fastidious plant pathogen, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) and Ca. L. asiaticus (CLas), respectively. CLso causes Zebra chip disease of potato and vein-greening in solanaceous species, whereas, CLas causes citrus greening disease. The reliance on insecticides for vector management to reduce pathogen transmission has increased interest in alternative approaches, including RNA interference to abate expression of genes essential for psyllid-mediated Ca. Liberibacter transmission. To identify genes with significantly altered expression at different life stages and conditions of CLso/CLas infection, cDNA libraries were constructed for CLso-infected and -uninfected PoP adults and nymphal instars. Illumina sequencing produced 199,081,451 reads that were assembled into 82,224 unique transcripts. PoP and the analogous transcripts from ACP adult and nymphs reported elsewhere were annotated, organized into functional gene groups using the Gene Ontology classification system, and analyzed for differential in silico expression. Expression profiles revealed vector life stage differences and differential gene expression associated with Liberibacter infection of the psyllid host, including invasion, immune system modulation, nutrition, and development.
PMCID: PMC4282890  PMID: 25436509
circulative-propagative transmission; fastidious plant bacteria; psyllid vector; transcriptome
4.  Horizontal Gene Acquisition of Liberibacter Plant Pathogens from a Bacteriome-Confined Endosymbiont of Their Psyllid Vector 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82612.
he Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri is a notorious agricultural pest that transmits the phloem-inhabiting alphaproteobacterial ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ and allied plant pathogens, which cause the devastating citrus disease called Huanglongbing or greening disease. D. citri harbors two distinct bacterial mutualists in the symbiotic organ called bacteriome: the betaproteobacterium ‘Candidatus Profftella armatura’ in the syncytial cytoplasm at the center of the bacteriome, and the gammaproteobacterium ‘Candidatus Carsonella ruddii’ in uninucleate bacteriocytes. Here we report that a putative amino acid transporter LysE of Profftella forms a highly supported clade with proteins of L. asiaticus, L. americanus, and L. solanacearum. L. crescens, the most basal Liberibacter lineage currently known, lacked the corresponding gene. The Profftella-Liberibacter subclade of LysE formed a clade with proteins from betaproteobacteria of the order Burkholderiales, to which Profftella belongs. This phylogenetic pattern favors the hypothesis that the Liberibacter lineage acquired the gene from the Profftella lineage via horizontal gene transfer (HGT) after L. crescens diverged from other Liberibacter lineages. KA/KS analyses further supported the hypothesis that the genes encoded in the Liberibacter genomes are functional. These findings highlight the possible evolutionary importance of HGT between plant pathogens and their insect vector’s symbionts that are confined in the symbiotic organ and seemingly sequestered from external microbial populations.
PMCID: PMC3857777  PMID: 24349319
5.  The Phloem-Sap Feeding Mealybug (Ferrisia virgata) Carries ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ Populations That Do Not Cause Disease in Host Plants 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85503.
‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (Las) is the primary causal agent of huanglongbing (HLB), the most devastating disease of citrus worldwide. There are three known insect vectors of the HLB-associated bacteria, and all are members of the Hemiptera: Diaphorina citri (Psyllidae), Trioza erytreae (Triozidae), and Cacopsylla (Psylla) citrisuga (Psyllidae). In this study, we found that another hemipteran, the striped mealybug Ferrisia virgata (Cockerell) (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), was able to acquire and retain Las bacteria. The bacterial titers were positively correlated with the feeding acquisition time on Las-infected leaf discs, with a two-weeks feeding period resulting in Ct values ranging from 23.1 to 36.1 (8.24×107 to 1.07×104 Las cells per mealybug). We further discovered that the prophage/phage populations of Las in the mealybugs were different from those of Las in psyllids based on Las prophage-specific molecular markers: infected psyllids harbored the Las populations with prophage/phage FP1 and FP2, while infected mealybugs carried the Las populations with the iFP3 being the dominant prophage/phage. As in the psyllids, Las bacteria were shown to move through the insect gut wall to the salivary glands after being ingested by the mealybug based on a time-course quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay of the dissected digestive systems. However, Las populations transmitted by the mealybugs did not cause disease in host plants. This is the first evidence of genetic difference among Las populations harbored by different insect vectors and difference among Las populations with respect to whether or not they cause disease in host plants.
PMCID: PMC3896372  PMID: 24465578
6.  Candidatus Liberibacter americanus induces significant reprogramming of the transcriptome of the susceptible citrus genotype 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:247.
Citrus huanglongbing (HLB) disease is caused by endogenous, phloem-restricted, Gram negative, uncultured bacteria named Candidatus Liberibacter africanus (CaLaf), Ca. L. asiaticus (CaLas), and Ca. L. americanus (CaLam), depending on the continent where the bacteria were first detected. The Asian citrus psyllid vector, Diaphorina citri, transmits CaLas and CaLam and both Liberibacter species are present in Brazil. Several studies of the transcriptional response of citrus plants manifesting HLB symptoms have been reported, but only for CaLas infection. This study evaluated the transcriptional reprogramming of a susceptible genotype of sweet orange challenged with CaLam, using a customized 385K microarray containing approximately 32,000 unigene transcripts. We analyzed global changes in gene expression of CaLam-infected leaves of sweet orange during the symptomatic stage of infection and compared the results with previously published microarray studies that used CaLas-infected plants. Twenty candidate genes were selected to validate the expression profiles in symptomatic and asymptomatic PCR-positive leaves infected with CaLas or CaLam.
The microarray analysis identified 633 differentially expressed genes during the symptomatic stage of CaLam infection. Among them, 418 (66%) were upregulated and 215 (34%) were down regulated. Five hundred and fourteen genes (81%) were orthologs of genes from Arabidopsis thaliana. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) revealed that several of the transcripts encoded transporters associated with the endomembrane system, especially zinc transport. Among the most biologically relevant gene transcripts in GSEA were those related to signaling, metabolism and/or stimulus to hormones, genes responding to stress and pathogenesis, biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, oxidative stress and transcription factors belonging to different families. Real time PCR of 20 candidate genes validated the expression pattern of some genes in symptomatic and asymptomatic leaves infected with CaLam or CaLas.
Many gene transcripts and biological processes are significantly altered upon CaLam infection. Some of them had been identified in response to CaLas infection, while others had not been previously reported. These data will be useful for selecting target genes for genetic engineering to control HLB.
PMCID: PMC3635983  PMID: 23586643
Gene expression; Sweet orange; huanglongbing; Plant-pathogen interaction
7.  Temperature Studies with the Asian Citrus Psyllid, Diaphorina citri: Cold Hardiness and Temperature Thresholds for Oviposition 
This study was conducted to obtain information on the cold hardiness of the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Psyllidae), in Florida and to assess upper and lower temperature thresholds for oviposition. The psyllid is an important pest in citrus because it transmits the bacterial pathogens responsible for citrus greening disease, Huanglongbing, considered the most serious citrus disease worldwide. D. citri was first found in Florida during 1998, and the disease was discovered during 2005. Little was known regarding cold hardiness of D. citri, but Florida citrus is occasionally subjected to notable freeze events. Temperature and duration were each significant sources of variation in percent mortality of D. citri subjected to freeze events. Relatively large percentages of adults and nymphs survived after being exposed for several hours to temperatures as low as -5 to -6° C. Relatively large percentages of eggs hatched after being exposed for several hours to temperatures as low as -8° C. Research results indicated that adult D. citri become cold acclimated during the winter through exposure to cooler winter temperatures. There was no evidence that eggs became cold acclimated during winter. Cold acclimation in nymphs was not investigated. Research with adult D. citri from laboratory and greenhouse colonies revealed that mild to moderate freeze events were usually nonlethal to the D. citri irrespective of whether they were cold acclimated or not. Upper and lower temperature thresholds for oviposition were investigated because such information may be valuable in explaining the geographic distribution and potential spread of the pest from Florida as well as how cooler winter temperatures might limit population growth. The estimated lower and upper thresholds for oviposition were 16.0 and 41.6° C, respectively; the estimated temperature of peak oviposition over a 48 h period was 29.6° C.
PMCID: PMC3281434  PMID: 21870969
insecticide; cold acclimation; Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus; Huanglongbing
8.  Survey of Endosymbionts in the Diaphorina citri Metagenome and Assembly of a Wolbachia wDi Draft Genome 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50067.
Diaphorina citri (Hemiptera: Psyllidae), the Asian citrus psyllid, is the insect vector of Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus, the causal agent of citrus greening disease. Sequencing of the D. citri metagenome has been initiated to gain better understanding of the biology of this organism and the potential roles of its bacterial endosymbionts. To corroborate candidate endosymbionts previously identified by rDNA amplification, raw reads from the D. citri metagenome sequence were mapped to reference genome sequences. Results of the read mapping provided the most support for Wolbachia and an enteric bacterium most similar to Salmonella. Wolbachia-derived reads were extracted using the complete genome sequences for four Wolbachia strains. Reads were assembled into a draft genome sequence, and the annotation assessed for the presence of features potentially involved in host interaction. Genome alignment with the complete sequences reveals membership of Wolbachia wDi in supergroup B, further supported by phylogenetic analysis of FtsZ. FtsZ and Wsp phylogenies additionally indicate that the Wolbachia strain in the Florida D. citri isolate falls into a sub-clade of supergroup B, distinct from Wolbachia present in Chinese D. citri isolates, supporting the hypothesis that the D. citri introduced into Florida did not originate from China.
PMCID: PMC3500351  PMID: 23166822
9.  Rapid and sensitive detection of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus by loop mediated isothermal amplification combined with a lateral flow dipstick 
BMC Microbiology  2014;14:86.
Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB) is the most devastating bacterial citrus disease worldwide. Three Candidatus Liberibacter species are associated with different forms of the disease: Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, Candidatus Liberibacter americanus and Candidatus Liberibacter africanus. Amongst them, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus is the most widespread and economically important. These Gram-negative bacterial plant pathogens are phloem-limited and vectored by citrus psyllids. The current management strategy of HLB is based on early and accurate detection of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus in both citrus plants and vector insects. Nowadays, real time PCR is the method of choice for this task, mainly because of its sensitivity and reliability. However, this methodology has several drawbacks, namely high equipment costs, the need for highly trained personnel, the time required to conduct the whole process, and the difficulty in carrying out the detection reactions in field conditions.
A recent DNA amplification technique known as Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) was adapted for the detection of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. This methodology was combined with a Lateral Flow Dipstick (LFD) device for visual detection of the resulting amplicons, eliminating the need for gel electrophoresis. The assay was highly specific for the targeted bacterium. No cross-reaction was observed with DNA from any of the other phytopathogenic bacteria or fungi assayed. By serially diluting purified DNA from an infected plant, the sensitivity of the assay was found to be 10 picograms. This sensitivity level was proven to be similar to the values obtained running a real time PCR in parallel. This methodology was able to detect Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus from different kinds of samples including infected citrus plants and psyllids.
Our results indicate that the methodology here reported constitutes a step forward in the development of new tools for the management, control and eradication of this destructive citrus disease. This system constitutes a potentially field-capable approach for the detection of the most relevant HLB-associated bacteria in plant material and psyllid vectors.
PMCID: PMC4021466  PMID: 24708539
Huanglongbing; Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus; Diaphorina citri
10.  Diversity and Plasticity of the Intracellular Plant Pathogen and Insect Symbiont “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” as Revealed by Hypervariable Prophage Genes with Intragenic Tandem Repeats ▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(18):6663-6673.
“Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” is a psyllid-transmitted, phloem-limited alphaproteobacterium and the most prevalent species of “Ca. Liberibacter” associated with a devastating worldwide citrus disease known as huanglongbing (HLB). Two related and hypervariable genes (hyvI and hyvII) were identified in the prophage regions of the Psy62 “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” genome. Sequence analyses of the hyvI and hyvII genes in 35 “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” DNA isolates collected globally revealed that the hyvI gene contains up to 12 nearly identical tandem repeats (NITRs, 132 bp) and 4 partial repeats, while hyvII contains up to 2 NITRs and 4 partial repeats and shares homology with hyvI. Frequent deletions or insertions of these repeats within the hyvI and hyvII genes were observed, none of which disrupted the open reading frames. Sequence conservation within the individual repeats but an extensive variation in repeat numbers, rearrangement, and the sequences flanking the repeat region indicate the diversity and plasticity of “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” bacterial populations in the world. These differences were found not only in samples of distinct geographical origins but also in samples from a single origin and even from a single “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus”-infected sample. This is the first evidence of different “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” populations coexisting in a single HLB-affected sample. The Florida “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” isolates contain both hyvI and hyvII, while all other global “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” isolates contain either one or the other. Interclade assignments of the putative HyvI and HyvII proteins from Florida isolates with other global isolates in phylogenetic trees imply multiple “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” populations in the world and a multisource introduction of the “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” bacterium into Florida.
PMCID: PMC3187138  PMID: 21784907
11.  The Transcriptional Activator LdtR from ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ Mediates Osmotic Stress Tolerance 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(4):e1004101.
The causal agent of Huanglongbing disease, ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, is a non-culturable, gram negative, phloem-limited α-proteobacterium. Current methods to control the spread of this disease are still limited to the removal and destruction of infected trees. In this study, we identified and characterized a regulon from ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ involved in cell wall remodeling, that contains a member of the MarR family of transcriptional regulators (ldtR), and a predicted L,D-transpeptidase (ldtP). In Sinorhizobium meliloti, mutation of ldtR resulted in morphological changes (shortened rod-type phenotype) and reduced tolerance to osmotic stress. A biochemical approach was taken to identify small molecules that modulate LdtR activity. The LdtR ligands identified by thermal shift assays were validated using DNA binding methods. The biological impact of LdtR inactivation by the small molecules was then examined in Sinorhizobium meliloti and Liberibacter crescens, where a shortened-rod phenotype was induced by growth in presence of the ligands. A new method was also developed to examine the effects of small molecules on the viability of ‘Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus’, using shoots from HLB-infected orange trees. Decreased expression of ldtRLas and ldtPLas was observed in samples taken from HLB-infected shoots after 6 h of incubation with the LdtR ligands. These results provide strong proof of concept for the use of small molecules that target LdtR, as a potential treatment option for Huanglongbing disease.
Author Summary
The rapid expansion of Huanglongbing disease (HLB) has caused a severe crisis in the citrus industry, with no solution visible in the near future. The causative agent, ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, is an unculturable bacterium under common laboratory conditions, which has made it difficult to gain understanding of this pathogen. Here we used a biochemical approach to identify new chemicals that could be used for the treatment of this devastating disease. These chemicals target a specific transcription factor (LdtR) in ‘Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus’. When bound to LdtR, the chemicals inactivate the protein, which disrupts a cell wall remodeling process that is critical for survival of the pathogen when exposed to osmotic stress (i.e. within the phloem of a citrus tree). Several model strains were used to confirm that the newly identified transcription factor (LdtR) and its regulated genes (ldtR and ldtP) confer tolerance to osmotic stress. The results presented in this study provide strong proof of concept for the use of small molecules that target LdtR, as a potential treatment option for Huanglongbing disease.
PMCID: PMC3999280  PMID: 24763829
12.  Oral Delivery of Double-Stranded RNAs and siRNAs Induces RNAi Effects in the Potato/Tomato Psyllid, Bactericerca cockerelli 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27736.
The potato/tomato psyllid, Bactericerca cockerelli (B. cockerelli), and the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri (D. citri), are very important plant pests, but they are also vectors of phloem-limited bacteria that are associated with two devastating plant diseases. B. cockerelli is the vector of Candidatus Liberibacter psyllaurous (solanacearum), which is associated with zebra chip disease of potatoes, and D. citri is the vector of Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus, which is associated with the Huanglongbing (citrus greening) disease that currently threatens the entire Florida citrus industry. Here we used EST sequence information from D. citri to identify potential targets for RNA interference in B. cockerelli. We targeted ubiquitously expressed and gut-abundant mRNAs via injection and oral acquisition of double-stranded RNAs and siRNAs and were able to induce mortality in recipient psyllids. We also showed knockdown of target mRNAs, and that oral acquisition resulted primarily in mRNA knockdown in the psyllid gut. Concurrent with gene knockdown was the accumulation of target specific ∼ 21 nucleotide siRNAs for an abundant mRNA for BC-Actin. These results showed that RNAi can be a powerful tool for gene function studies in psyllids, and give support for continued efforts for investigating RNAi approaches as possible tools for psyllid and plant disease control.
PMCID: PMC3218023  PMID: 22110747
13.  Characterization of the Relative Abundance of the Citrus Pathogen Ca. Liberibacter Asiaticus in the Microbiome of Its Insect Vector, Diaphorina citri, using High Throughput 16S rRNA Sequencing 
The relationship between the causal agent of Huanglongbing (HLB), Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus(Las), and the naturally occurring endosymbiotic community of its insect vector, the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri, was studied. Variation was observed in the titer of Las within an ACP population feeding on the same material. The cause of this disparity is unknown, and has implications for Las transmission and the spread of HLB. This study utilizes culture independent methods to establish the relationship between the ACP’s microbial community and Las acquisition. DNA from 21 psyllids was amplified using universal 16S rRNA primers with Illumina adaptor regions and a sample-specific 7- base identifier. These amplicons were then batch-sequenced on the Illumina platform. The resulting sequences were separated by the identifier, and compared to known sequences in a 16S rRNA database. The microbial communities of each psyllid were compared to determine whether a correlation exists between the ACP’s endosymbionts and level of Las acquisition.
ACPs were dominated by the same four bacterialgenera regardless of the abundance of Ca.Liberibacter. A combination of qPCR and Illumina sequencing was used to establish an infection gradient among the sampled ACPs. The Ca. Liberibacter titer within the insect was found to have a strong negative relationship with an endosymbiont residing in the syncytium of the mycetocyte and a positive relationship with Wolbachia. These correlations have implications in the acquisition of Las by the ACP as well as the activities of Las within this vector.
PMCID: PMC3330398  PMID: 22529882
Bacteriocyte; Huanglongbing; Illumina; multiplex; psyllid; syncytium endosymbiont.
14.  Odorants for Surveillance and Control of the Asian Citrus Psyllid (Diaphorina citri) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109236.
The Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri, can transmit the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter while feeding on citrus flush shoots. This bacterium causes Huanglongbing (HLB), a major disease of citrus cultivation worldwide necessitating the development of new tools for ACP surveillance and control. The olfactory system of ACP is sensitive to variety of odorants released by citrus plants and offers an opportunity to develop new attractants and repellents.
In this study, we performed single-unit electrophysiology to identify odorants that are strong activators, inhibitors, and prolonged activators of ACP odorant receptor neurons (ORNs). We identified a suite of odorants that activated the ORNs with high specificity and sensitivity, which may be useful in eliciting behavior such as attraction. In separate experiments, we also identified odorants that evoked prolonged ORN responses and antagonistic odorants able to suppress neuronal responses to activators, both of which can be useful in lowering attraction to hosts. In field trials, we tested the electrophysiologically identified activating odorants and identified a 3-odor blend that enhances trap catches by ∼230%.
These findings provide a set of odorants that can be used to develop affordable and safe odor-based surveillance and masking strategies for this dangerous pest insect.
PMCID: PMC4209970  PMID: 25347318
15.  Behavioral, Ultrastructural and Chemical Studies on the Honeydew and Waxy Secretions by Nymphs and Adults of the Asian Citrus Psyllid Diaphorina citri (Hemiptera: Psyllidae) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e64938.
The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), Diaphorina citri (Hemiptera: Psyllidae) is the primary vector of the bacterium causing citrus huanglongbing (citrus greening), the most serious disease of citrus worldwide. Psyllids and other hemipterans produce large amounts of honeydew, which has been used previously as an indicator of phloem sap composition and insect feeding or metabolism. Behavioral, ultrastructural and chemical studies on ACP, its honeydew and waxy secretions showed important differences between nymphs, males and females, and suggested some mechanisms by which the psyllids, especially nymphs and adult females, can minimize their contamination with honeydew excretions. The anal opening in ACP, near the posterior end of the abdomen, is on the ventral side in nymphs and on the dorsal side in adult males and females. Video recordings showed that adult males produce clear sticky droplets of honeydew gently deposited behind their body on the leaf surface, whereas adult females produce whitish honeydew pellets powerfully propelled away from the female body, probably to get their excretions away from eggs and newly hatched nymphs. ACP nymphs produce long ribbons or tubes of honeydew that frequently stay attached to the exuviae after molting, or drop when feeding on the lower side of citrus leaves. Furthermore, honeydew excretions of both nymphs and adult females are covered with a thin layer of whitish waxy material ultrastructurally composed of a convoluted network of long fine filaments or ribbons. This material is extruded from intricate arrays of wax pores in the circumanal ring (around the anus) that is found in nymphs and females but not in males of ACP or other psyllid species. Infrared microscopy and mass spectroscopy revealed that, in addition to various sugars, honeydew excretions of ACP nymphs and females are covered with a thin layer of wax similar in profile to ester waxes.
PMCID: PMC3677883  PMID: 23762268
16.  Small RNA Profiling Reveals Phosphorus Deficiency as a Contributing Factor in Symptom Expression for Citrus Huanglongbing Disease 
Molecular Plant  2013;6(2):301-310.
We identified several HLB-induced citrus small RNAs that can be potentially developed into early diagnostic markers of HLB. Induction of miR399 by Las led to the discovery that HLB-positive trees suffer from phosphorus starvation. Applying phosphorus solutions help reduce HLB symptoms.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is a devastating citrus disease that is associated with bacteria of the genus ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ (Ca. L.). Powerful diagnostic tools and management strategies are desired to control HLB. Host small RNAs (sRNA) play a vital role in regulating host responses to pathogen infection and are used as early diagnostic markers for many human diseases, including cancers. To determine whether citrus sRNAs regulate host responses to HLB, sRNAs were profiled from Citrus sinensis 10 and 14 weeks post grafting with Ca. L. asiaticus (Las)-positive or healthy tissue. Ten new microRNAs (miRNAs), 76 conserved miRNAs, and many small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) were discovered. Several miRNAs and siRNAs were highly induced by Las infection, and can be potentially developed into early diagnosis markers of HLB. miR399, which is induced by phosphorus starvation in other plant species, was induced specifically by infection of Las but not Spiroplasma citri that causes citrus stubborn—a disease with symptoms similar to HLB. We found a 35% reduction of phosphorus in Las-positive citrus trees compared to healthy trees. Applying phosphorus oxyanion solutions to HLB-positive sweet orange trees reduced HLB symptom severity and significantly improved fruit production during a 3-year field trial in south-west Florida. Our molecular, physiological, and field data suggest that phosphorus deficiency is linked to HLB disease symptomology.
PMCID: PMC3716302  PMID: 23292880
Huanglongbing; small RNA; miRNA399; disease diagnosis; phosphorus deficiency.
17.  Geographic Distribution of Habitat, Development, and Population Growth Rates of the Asian Citrus Psyllid, Diaphorina citri, in Mexico 
The Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Psyllidae), is an introduced pest in Mexico and a vector of huanglongbing, a lethal citrus disease. Estimations of the habitat distribution and population growth rates of D. citri are required to establish regional and areawide management strategies and can be used as a pest risk analysis tools. In this study, the habitat distribution of D. citri in Mexico was computed with MaxEnt, an inductive, machine-learning program that uses bioclimatic layers and point location data. Geographic distributions of development and population growth rates were determined by fitting a temperature-dependent, nonlinear model and projecting the rates over the target area, using the annual mean temperature as the predictor variable. The results showed that the most suitable regions for habitat of D. citri comprise the Gulf of Mexico states, Yucatán Peninsula, and areas scattered throughout the Pacific coastal states. Less suitable areas occurred in northern and central states. The most important predictor variables were related to temperature. Development and growth rates had a distribution wider than habitat, reaching some of the northern states of México. Habitat, development, and population growth rates were correlated to each other and with the citrus producing area. These relationships indicated that citrus producing states are within the most suitable regions for the occurrence, development, and population growth of D. citri, therefore increasing the risk of huanglongbing dispersion.
PMCID: PMC4011364  PMID: 24735280
citrus pest; huanglongbing; niche estimation; species distribution modeling
18.  Huanglongbing, a Systemic Disease, Restructures the Bacterial Community Associated with Citrus Roots▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2010;76(11):3427-3436.
To examine the effect of pathogens on the diversity and structure of plant-associated bacterial communities, we carried out a molecular analysis using citrus and huanglongbing as a host-disease model. 16S rRNA gene clone library analysis of citrus roots revealed shifts in microbial diversity in response to pathogen infection. The clone library of the uninfected root samples has a majority of phylotypes showing similarity to well-known plant growth-promoting bacteria, including Caulobacter, Burkholderia, Lysobacter, Pantoea, Pseudomonas, Stenotrophomonas, Bacillus, and Paenibacillus. Infection by “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” restructured the native microbial community associated with citrus roots and led to the loss of detection of most phylotypes while promoting the growth of bacteria such as Methylobacterium and Sphingobacterium. In pairwise comparisons, the clone library from uninfected roots contained significantly higher 16S rRNA gene diversity, as reflected in the higher Chao 1 richness estimation (P ≤ 0.01) of 237.13 versus 42.14 for the uninfected and infected clone libraries, respectively. Similarly, the Shannon index of the uninfected clone library (4.46) was significantly higher than that of the infected clone library (2.61). Comparison of the uninfected clone library with the infected clone library using LIBSHUFF statistics showed a significant difference (P ≤ 0.05). Quantitative PCR analysis revealed that the bacterial community changes not only qualitatively but also quantitatively. The relative proportions of different groups of bacteria changed significantly after infection with the pathogen. These data indicate that infection of citrus by “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” has a profound effect on the structure and composition of the bacterial community associated with citrus roots.
PMCID: PMC2876436  PMID: 20382817
19.  Characterization of the Asian Citrus Psyllid Transcriptome 
Journal of genomics  2014;2:54-58.
The Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Psyllidae) is a vector for the causative agents of Huanglongbing, which threatens citrus production worldwide. This study reports and discusses the first D. citri transcriptomes, encompassing the three main life stages of D. citri, egg, nymph and adult. The transcriptomes were annotated using Gene Ontology (GO) and insecticide-related genes within each life stage were identified to aid the development of future D. citri insecticides. Transcriptome assemblies and other sequence data are available for download at the International Asian Citrus Psyllid Genome Consortium website [] and at NCBI [].
PMCID: PMC3914308  PMID: 24511328
Asian Citrus Psyllid; Diaphorina citri Kuwayama
20.  Characterization of the Asian Citrus Psyllid Transcriptome 
Journal of Genomics  2014;2:54-58.
The Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Psyllidae) is a vector for the causative agents of Huanglongbing, which threatens citrus production worldwide. This study reports and discusses the first D. citri transcriptomes, encompassing the three main life stages of D. citri, egg, nymph and adult. The transcriptomes were annotated using Gene Ontology (GO) and insecticide-related genes within each life stage were identified to aid the development of future D. citri insecticides. Transcriptome assemblies and other sequence data are available for download at the International Asian Citrus Psyllid Genome Consortium website [] and at NCBI [].
PMCID: PMC3914308  PMID: 24511328
Asian Citrus Psyllid; Diaphorina citri Kuwayama
21.  The Genetic Structure of an Invasive Pest, the Asian Citrus Psyllid Diaphorina citri (Hemiptera: Liviidae) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115749.
The Asian citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri is currently the major threat to the citrus industry as it is the vector of Candidatus Liberibacter, the causal agent of huanglongbing disease (HLB). D. citri is native to Asia and now colonizes the Americas. Although it has been known in some countries for a long time, invasion routes remain undetermined. There are no efficient control methods for the HLB despite the intensive management tools currently in use. We investigated the genetic variability and structure of populations of D. citri to aid in the decision making processes toward sustainable management of this species/disease. We employed different methods to quantify and compare the genetic diversity and structure of D. citri populations among 36 localities in Brazil, using an almost complete sequence of the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene. Our analyses led to the identification of two geographically and genetically structured groups. The indices of molecular diversity pointed to a recent population expansion, and we discuss the role of multiple invasion events in this scenario. We also argue that such genetic diversity and population structure may have implications for the best management strategies to be adopted for controlling this psyllid and/or the disease it vectors in Brazil.
PMCID: PMC4278764  PMID: 25545788
22.  Multilocus microsatellite analysis of 'Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus' associated with citrus Huanglongbing worldwide 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:39.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is one of the most destructive citrus diseases in the world. The disease is associated with the presence of a fastidious, phloem-limited α- proteobacterium, 'Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus', 'Ca. Liberibacter africanus' or 'Ca. Liberibacter americanus'. HLB-associated Liberibacters have spread to North America and South America in recent years. While the causal agents of HLB have been putatively identified, information regarding the worldwide population structure and epidemiological relationships for 'Ca. L. asiaticus' is limited. The availability of the 'Ca. L. asiaticus' genome sequence has facilitated development of molecular markers from this bacterium. The objectives of this study were to develop microsatellite markers and conduct genetic analyses of 'Ca. L. asiaticus' from a worldwide collection. Two hundred eighty seven isolates from USA (Florida), Brazil, China, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan were analyzed.
A panel of seven polymorphic microsatellite markers was developed for 'Ca. L. asiaticus'. Microsatellite analyses across the samples showed that the genetic diversity of 'Ca. L. asiaticus' is higher in Asia than Americas. UPGMA and STRUCTURE analyses identified three major genetic groups worldwide. Isolates from India were genetically distinct. East-southeast Asian and Brazilian isolates were generally included in the same group; a few members of this group were found in Florida, but the majority of the isolates from Florida were clustered separately. eBURST analysis predicted three founder haplotypes, which may have given rise to three groups worldwide.
Our results identified three major genetic groups of 'Ca. L. asiaticus' worldwide. Isolates from Brazil showed similar genetic makeup with east-southeast Asian dominant group, suggesting the possibility of a common origin. However, most of the isolates recovered from Florida were clustered in a separate group. While the sources of the dominant 'Ca. L. asiaticus' in Florida were not clearly understood, the less-pervasive groups may have been introduced directly from Asia or via Brazil. Notably, the recent outbreak of HLB in Florida probably occurred through multiple introductions. Microsatellite markers developed in this study provide adequate discriminatory power for the identification and differentiation of closely-related isolates, as well as for genetic studies of 'Ca. L. asiaticus'.
PMCID: PMC3368738  PMID: 22433492
23.  Prophage-Mediated Dynamics of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ Populations, the Destructive Bacterial Pathogens of Citrus Huanglongbing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82248.
Prophages are highly dynamic components in the bacterial genome and play an important role in intraspecies variations. There are at least two prophages in the chromosomes of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (Las) Floridian isolates. Las is both unculturable and the most prevalent species of Liberibacter pathogens that cause huanglongbing (HLB), a worldwide destructive disease of citrus. In this study, seven new prophage variants resulting from two hyper-variable regions were identified by screening clone libraries of infected citrus, periwinkle and psyllids. Among them, Types A and B share highly conserved sequences and localize within the two prophages, FP1 and FP2, respectively. Although Types B and C were abundant in all three libraries, Type A was much more abundant in the libraries from the Las-infected psyllids than from the Las-infected plants, and Type D was only identified in libraries from the infected host plants but not from the infected psyllids. Sequence analysis of these variants revealed that the variations may result from recombination and rearrangement events. Conventional PCR results using type-specific molecular markers indicated that A, B, C and D are the four most abundant types in Las-infected citrus and periwinkle. However, only three types, A, B and C are abundant in Las-infected psyllids. Typing results for Las-infected citrus field samples indicated that mixed populations of Las bacteria present in Floridian isolates, but only the Type D population was correlated with the blotchy mottle symptom. Extended cloning and sequencing of the Type D region revealed a third prophage/phage in the Las genome, which may derive from the recombination of FP1 and FP2. Dramatic variations in these prophage regions were also found among the global Las isolates. These results are the first to demonstrate the prophage/phage-mediated dynamics of Las populations in plant and insect hosts, and their correlation with insect transmission and disease development.
PMCID: PMC3862640  PMID: 24349235
24.  Transcriptome comparison and gene coexpression network analysis provide a systems view of citrus response to ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ infection 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:27.
Huanglongbing (HLB) is arguably the most destructive disease for the citrus industry. HLB is caused by infection of the bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter spp. Several citrus GeneChip studies have revealed thousands of genes that are up- or down-regulated by infection with Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus. However, whether and how these host genes act to protect against HLB remains poorly understood.
As a first step towards a mechanistic view of citrus in response to the HLB bacterial infection, we performed a comparative transcriptome analysis and found that a total of 21 Probesets are commonly up-regulated by the HLB bacterial infection. In addition, a number of genes are likely regulated specifically at early, late or very late stages of the infection. Furthermore, using Pearson correlation coefficient-based gene coexpression analysis, we constructed a citrus HLB response network consisting of 3,507 Probesets and 56,287 interactions. Genes involved in carbohydrate and nitrogen metabolic processes, transport, defense, signaling and hormone response were overrepresented in the HLB response network and the subnetworks for these processes were constructed. Analysis of the defense and hormone response subnetworks indicates that hormone response is interconnected with defense response. In addition, mapping the commonly up-regulated HLB responsive genes into the HLB response network resulted in a core subnetwork where transport plays a key role in the citrus response to the HLB bacterial infection. Moreover, analysis of a phloem protein subnetwork indicates a role for this protein and zinc transporters or zinc-binding proteins in the citrus HLB defense response.
Through integrating transcriptome comparison and gene coexpression network analysis, we have provided for the first time a systems view of citrus in response to the Ca. Liberibacter spp. infection causing HLB.
PMCID: PMC3577516  PMID: 23324561
25.  Characterization of an ATP Translocase Identified in the Destructive Plant Pathogen “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus”▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2009;192(3):834-840.
ATP/ADP translocases transport ATP across a lipid bilayer, which is normally impermeable to this molecule due to its size and charge. These transport proteins appear to be unique to mitochondria, plant plastids, and obligate intracellular bacteria. All bacterial ATP/ADP translocases characterized thus far have been found in endosymbionts of protozoa or pathogens of higher-order animals, including humans. A putative ATP/ADP translocase was uncovered during the genomic sequencing of the intracellular plant pathogen “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus,” the causal agent of citrus huanglongbing. Bioinformatic analysis of the protein revealed 12 transmembrane helices and predicted an isoelectric point of 9.4, both of which are characteristic of this family of proteins. The “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus” gene (nttA) encoding the translocase was subsequently expressed in Escherichia coli and shown to enable E. coli to import ATP directly into the cell. Competition assays with the heterologous E. coli system demonstrated that the translocase was highly specific for ATP and ADP but that other nucleotides, if present in high concentrations, could also be taken up and/or block the ability of the translocase to import ATP. In addition, a protein homologous to NttA was identified in “Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum,” the bacterium associated with potato zebra chip disease. This is the first reported characterization of an ATP translocase from “Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus,” indicating that some intracellular bacteria of plants also have the potential to import ATP directly from their environment.
PMCID: PMC2812452  PMID: 19948801

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