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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  Sexual Transmission of a Plant Pathogenic Bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, between Conspecific Insect Vectors during Mating 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29197.
Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus is a fastidious, phloem-inhabiting, gram-negative bacterium transmitted by Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama (Hemiptera: Psyllidae). The bacterium is the presumed causal agent of huanglongbing (HLB), one of the most destructive and economically important diseases of citrus. We investigated whether Las is transmitted between infected and uninfected D. citri adults during courtship. Our results indicate that Las was sexually transmitted from Las-infected male D. citri to uninfected females at a low rate (<4%) during mating. Sexual transmission was not observed following mating of infected females and uninfected males or among adult pairs of the same sex. Las was detected in genitalia of both sexes and also in eggs of infected females. A latent period of 7 days or more was required to detect the bacterium in recipient females. Rod shaped as well as spherical structures resembling Las were observed in ovaries of Las-infected females with transmission electron microscopy, but were absent in ovaries from uninfected D. citri females. The size of the rod shaped structures varied from 0.39 to 0.67 µm in length and 0.19 to 0.39 µm in width. The spherical structures measured from 0.61 to 0.80 µm in diameter. This investigation provides convincing evidence that a plant pathogenic bacterium is sexually transmitted from male to female insects during courtship and established evidence that bacteria persist in reproductive organs. Moreover, these findings provide an alternative sexually horizontal mechanism for the spread of Las within populations of D. citri, even in the absence of infected host trees.
PMCID: PMC3244449  PMID: 22216209
7.  Manipulation of Plant Defense Responses by the Tomato Psyllid (Bactericerca cockerelli) and Its Associated Endosymbiont Candidatus Liberibacter Psyllaurous 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35191.
Some plant pathogens form obligate relationships with their insect vector and are vertically transmitted via eggs analogous to insect endosymbionts. Whether insect endosymbionts manipulate plant defenses to benefit their insect host remains unclear. The tomato psyllid, Bactericerca cockerelli (Sulc), vectors the endosymbiont “Candidatus Liberibacter psyllaurous” (Lps) during feeding on tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Lps titer in psyllids varied relative to the psyllid developmental stage with younger psyllids harboring smaller Lps populations compared to older psyllids. In the present study, feeding by different life stages of B. cockerelli infected with Lps, resulted in distinct tomato transcript profiles. Feeding by young psyllid nymphs, with lower Lps levels, induced tomato genes regulated by jasmonic acid (JA) and salicylic acid (SA) (Allene oxide synthase, Proteinase inhibitor 2, Phenylalanine ammonia-lyase 5, Pathogenesis-related protein 1) compared to feeding by older nymphs and adults, where higher Lps titers were found. In addition, inoculation of Lps without insect hosts suppressed accumulation of these defense transcripts. Collectively, these data suggest that the endosymbiont-like pathogen Lps manipulates plant signaling and defensive responses to benefit themselves and the success of their obligate insect vector on their host plant.
PMCID: PMC3335145  PMID: 22539959
8.  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
9.  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
10.  Experimental Infection of Plants with an Herbivore-Associated Bacterial Endosymbiont Influences Herbivore Host Selection Behavior 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49330.
Although bacterial endosymbioses are common among phloeophagous herbivores, little is known regarding the effects of symbionts on herbivore host selection and population dynamics. We tested the hypothesis that plant selection and reproductive performance by a phloem-feeding herbivore (potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli) is mediated by infection of plants with a bacterial endosymbiont. We controlled for the effects of herbivory and endosymbiont infection by exposing potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) to psyllids infected with “Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum” or to uninfected psyllids. We used these treatments as a basis to experimentally test plant volatile emissions, herbivore settling and oviposition preferences, and herbivore population growth. Three important findings emerged: (1) plant volatile profiles differed with respect to both herbivory and herbivory plus endosymbiont infection when compared to undamaged control plants; (2) herbivores initially settled on plants exposed to endosymbiont-infected psyllids but later defected and oviposited primarily on plants exposed only to uninfected psyllids; and (3) plant infection status had little effect on herbivore reproduction, though plant flowering was associated with a 39% reduction in herbivore density on average. Our experiments support the hypothesis that plant infection with endosymbionts alters plant volatile profiles, and infected plants initially recruited herbivores but later repelled them. Also, our findings suggest that the endosymbiont may not place negative selection pressure on its host herbivore in this system, but plant flowering phenology appears correlated with psyllid population performance.
PMCID: PMC3498155  PMID: 23166641
11.  Herbivory by the insect diaphorina citri induces greater change in citrus plant volatile profile than does infection by the bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2013;8(10):e25677.
The volatile organic compound (VOC) profile in plant leaves often changes after biotic and abiotic stresses. Monitoring changes in VOCs in plant leaves could provide valuable information about multitrophic interactions. In the current study, we investigated the effect of Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) infestation, citrus greening pathogen (Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus [CLas]) infection, and simultaneous attack by ACP and CLas on the VOC content of citrus leaves. Leaf volatiles were extracted using hexane and analyzed with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Although ACP is a phloem-sucking insect that causes minimal damage to plant tissues, the relative amount of 21 out of the 27 VOCs increased 2- to 10-fold in ACP-infested plants. The relative amount of d-limonene, β-phelandrene, citronellal, and undecanal were increased 4- to 20- fold in CLas-infected plants. A principle component analysis (PCA) and cluster analysis (CA) showed that VOC patterns of ACP-infested and CLas-infected plants were different from each other and were also different from the controls, while the VOC pattern of double-attacked plants was more like that of the controls than that of ACP-infested or CLas-infected plants. VOC amounts from leaves were compromised when plants were attacked by ACP and CLas. The results of this study showed that a simple direct extraction of citrus leaf volatiles could be successfully used to discriminate between healthy and CLas-infected plants. Information about the effects of insect and pathogen attack on the VOC content profile of plants might contribute to a better understanding of biotic stress.
PMCID: PMC4091108  PMID: 23857364
Diaphorina citri; Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus; citrus greening; Huanglongbing; asain citrus psyllid; volatiles; herbivory; piecing-sucking insects
12.  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
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.  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
15.  Collection and Chemical Composition of Phloem Sap from Citrus sinensis L. Osbeck (Sweet Orange) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101830.
Through utilizing the nutrient-rich phloem sap, sap feeding insects such as psyllids, leafhoppers, and aphids can transmit many phloem-restricted pathogens. On the other hand, multiplication of phloem-limited, uncultivated bacteria such as Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) inside the phloem of citrus indicates that the sap contains all the essential nutrients needed for the pathogen growth. The phloem sap composition of many plants has been studied; however, to our knowledge, there is no available data about citrus phloem sap. In this study, we identified and quantified the chemical components of phloem sap from pineapple sweet orange. Two approaches (EDTA enhanced exudation and centrifugation) were used to collect phloem sap. The collected sap was derivatized with methyl chloroformate (MCF), N-methyl-N- [tert-butyl dimethylsilyl]-trifluroacetamide (MTBSTFA), or trimethylsilyl (TMS) and analyzed with GC-MS revealing 20 amino acids and 8 sugars. Proline, the most abundant amino acid, composed more than 60% of the total amino acids. Tryptophan, tyrosine, leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are considered essential for phloem sap-sucking insects, were also detected. Sucrose, glucose, fructose, and inositol were the most predominant sugars. In addition, seven organic acids including succinic, fumaric, malic, maleic, threonic, citric, and quinic were detected. All compounds detected in the EDTA-enhanced exudate were also detected in the pure phloem sap using centrifugation. The centrifugation technique allowed estimating the concentration of metabolites. This information expands our knowledge about the nutrition requirement for citrus phloem-limited bacterial pathogen and their vectors, and can help define suitable artificial media to culture them.
PMCID: PMC4094394  PMID: 25014027
16.  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
17.  Phytoplasma Effector SAP54 Hijacks Plant Reproduction by Degrading MADS-box Proteins and Promotes Insect Colonization in a RAD23-Dependent Manner 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(4):e1001835.
The phytoplasma bacterial plant parasite depends on leafhopper insects to spread and propagate itself. This study reveals how phytoplasma subverts plant development to turn flowers into leaves and thus make its host more attractive to leafhoppers.
Pathogens that rely upon multiple hosts to complete their life cycles often modify behavior and development of these hosts to coerce them into improving pathogen fitness. However, few studies describe mechanisms underlying host coercion. In this study, we elucidate the mechanism by which an insect-transmitted pathogen of plants alters floral development to convert flowers into vegetative tissues. We find that phytoplasma produce a novel effector protein (SAP54) that interacts with members of the MADS-domain transcription factor (MTF) family, including key regulators SEPALLATA3 and APETALA1, that occupy central positions in the regulation of floral development. SAP54 mediates degradation of MTFs by interacting with proteins of the RADIATION SENSITIVE23 (RAD23) family, eukaryotic proteins that shuttle substrates to the proteasome. Arabidopsis rad23 mutants do not show conversion of flowers into leaf-like tissues in the presence of SAP54 and during phytoplasma infection, emphasizing the importance of RAD23 to the activity of SAP54. Remarkably, plants with SAP54-induced leaf-like flowers are more attractive for colonization by phytoplasma leafhopper vectors and this colonization preference is dependent on RAD23. An effector that targets and suppresses flowering while simultaneously promoting insect herbivore colonization is unprecedented. Moreover, RAD23 proteins have, to our knowledge, no known roles in flower development, nor plant defence mechanisms against insects. Thus SAP54 generates a short circuit between two key pathways of the host to alter development, resulting in sterile plants, and promotes attractiveness of these plants to leafhopper vectors helping the obligate phytoplasmas reproduce and propagate (zombie plants).
Author Summary
Parasites that colonize multiple hosts often coerce these hosts into improving their own survival and reproduction rates. However, how parasites do this is largely unknown. Phytoplasmas are bacterial plant parasites that require sap-feeding insect vectors—leafhoppers—for their propagation and dispersal. It has been known for a long time that phytoplasmas stimulate dramatic developmental changes in a broad range of plant species, such as the conversion of flowers into leaves known as phyllody and the proliferation of stems known as “witches' broom.” Here we report how and why phytoplasmas cause these dramatic developmental changes. We identified a phytoplasma virulence protein, SAP54, which transforms flowers into leaves and converts plants into more attractive hosts for the egg-laying and reproduction of their leafhopper vectors. We show that SAP54 exerts its effect by promoting the degradation of proteins that regulate important developmental processes in flowering plants. These proteins are highly conserved transcription factors of the MADS-box family, and reducing their activity through SAP54–mediated degradation curtails flower development, generating sterile plants. This degradation process requires RAD23, a protein that recruits the transcription factors to the protein degradation machinery. The resulting sterile plants, which form leaves in place of flowers, are more attractive to leafhoppers, arguably making phytoplasmas master manipulators of the parasite world.
PMCID: PMC3979655  PMID: 24714165
18.  Latent Period and Transmission of “Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum” by the Potato Psyllid Bactericera cockerelli (Hemiptera: Triozidae) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93475.
“Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum” (Lso) is an economically important pathogen of solanaceous crops and the putative causal agent of zebra chip disease of potato (Solanum tuberosum L.). This pathogen is transmitted to solanaceous species by the potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli (Šulc), but many aspects of the acquisition and transmission processes have yet to be elucidated. The present study was conducted to assess the interacting effects of acquisition access period, incubation period, and host plant on Lso titer in psyllids, the movement of Lso from the alimentary canal to the salivary glands of the insect, and the ability of psyllids to transmit Lso to non-infected host plants. Following initial pathogen acquisition, the probability of Lso presence in the alimentary canal remained constant from 0 to 3 weeks, but the probability of Lso being present in the salivary glands increased with increasing incubation period. Lso copy numbers in psyllids peaked two weeks after the initial pathogen acquisition and psyllids were capable of transmitting Lso to non-infected host plants only after a two-week incubation period. Psyllid infectivity was associated with colonization of insect salivary glands by Lso and with Lso copy numbers >10,000 per psyllid. Results of our study indicate that Lso requires a two-week latent period in potato psyllids and suggest that acquisition and transmission of Lso by psyllids follows a pattern consistent with a propagative, circulative, and persistent mode of transmission.
PMCID: PMC3969317  PMID: 24682175
19.  Virus infection decreases the attractiveness of white clover plants for a non-vectoring herbivore 
Oecologia  2012;170(2):433-444.
Plant pathogens and insect herbivores are prone to share hosts under natural conditions. Consequently, pathogen-induced changes in the host plant can affect herbivory, and vice versa. Even though plant viruses are ubiquitous in the field, little is known about plant-mediated interactions between viruses and non-vectoring herbivores. We investigated the effects of virus infection on subsequent infestation by a non-vectoring herbivore in a natural genotype of Trifolium repens (white clover). We tested whether infection with White clover mosaic virus (WClMV) alters (1) the effects of fungus gnat feeding on plant growth, (2) the attractiveness of white clover for adult fungus gnat females, and (3) the volatile emission of white clover plants. We observed only marginal effects of WClMV infection on the interaction between fungus gnat larvae and white clover. However, adult fungus gnat females clearly preferred non-infected over WClMV-infected plants. Non-infected and virus-infected plants could easily be discriminated based on their volatile blends, suggesting that the preference of fungus gnats for non-infected plants may be mediated by virus-induced changes in volatile emissions. The compound β-caryophyllene was exclusively detected in the headspace of virus-infected plants and may hence be particularly important for the preference of fungus gnat females. Our results demonstrate that WClMV infection can decrease the attractiveness of white clover plants for fungus gnat females. This suggests that virus infections may contribute to protecting their hosts by decreasing herbivore infestation rates. Consequently, it is conceivable that viruses play a more beneficial role in plant–herbivore interactions than generally thought.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00442-012-2322-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3439618  PMID: 22526939
Pathogens; Three-way interactions; Trifolium repens; Volatiles; White clover mosaic virus
20.  Effects of Cucumber mosaic virus infection on vector and non-vector herbivores of squash 
Plant chemicals mediating interactions with insect herbivores seem a likely target for manipulation by insectvectored plant pathogens. Yet, little is currently known about the chemical ecology of insect-vectored diseases or their effects on the ecology of vector and nonvector insects. We recently reported that a widespread plant pathogen, Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), greatly reduces the quality of host-plants (squash) for aphid vectors, but that aphids are nevertheless attracted to the odors of infected plants—which exhibit elevated emissions of a volatile blend otherwise similar to the odor of healthy plants. This finding suggests that exaggerating existing host-location cues can be a viable vector attraction strategy for pathogens that otherwise reduce host quality for vectors. Here we report additional data regarding the effects of CMV infection on plant interactions with a common nonvector herbivore, the squash bug, Anasa tristis, which is a pest in this system. We found that adult A. tristis females preferred to oviposit on healthy plants in the field, and that healthy plants supported higher populations of nymphs. Collectively, our recent findings suggest that CMV-induced changes in host plant chemistry influence the behavior of both vector and non-vector herbivores, with significant implications both for disease spread and for broader community-level interactions.
PMCID: PMC3038069  PMID: 21331245
vector behavior; Cucumber mosaic virus; volatiles; parasite manipulation; Anasa tristis; Cucurbita pepo
21.  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
22.  Overexpression of a citrus NDR1 ortholog increases disease resistance in Arabidopsis 
Emerging devastating diseases, such as Huanglongbing (HLB) and citrus canker, have caused tremendous losses to the citrus industry worldwide. Genetic engineering is a powerful approach that could allow us to increase citrus resistance against these diseases. The key to the success of this approach relies on a thorough understanding of defense mechanisms of citrus. Studies of Arabidopsis and other plants have provided a framework for us to better understand defense mechanisms of citrus. Salicylic acid (SA) is a key signaling molecule involved in basal defense and resistance (R) gene-mediated defense against broad-spectrum pathogens. The Arabidopsis gene NDR1 (NON-RACE-SPECIFIC DISEASE RESISTANCE 1) is a positive regulator of SA accumulation and is specifically required for signaling mediated by a subset of R genes upon recognition of their cognate pathogen effectors. Our bioinformatic analysis identified an ortholog of NDR1 from citrus, CsNDR1. Overexpression of CsNDR1 complemented susceptibility conferred by the Arabidopsis ndr1-1 mutant to Pseudomonas syringae strains and also led to enhanced resistance to an oomycete pathogen Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis. Such heightened resistance is associated with increased SA production and expression of the defense marker gene PATHOGENESIS RELATED 1 (PR1). In addition, we found that expression of PR1 and accumulation of SA were induced to modest levels in citrus infected with Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, the bacterial pathogen associated with HLB disease. Thus, our data suggest that CsNDR1 is a functional ortholog of Arabidopsis NDR1. Since Ca. L. asiaticus infection only activates modest levels of defense responses in citrus, we propose that genetically increasing SA/NDR1-mediated pathways could potentially lead to enhanced resistance against HLB, citrus canker, and other destructive diseases challenging global citrus production.
PMCID: PMC3669760  PMID: 23761797
Pseudomonas syringae; salicylic acid; citrus canker; Huanglongbing; greening disease; Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus; genetic engineering
23.  Differences in Stylet Sheath Occurrence and the Fibrous Ring (Sclerenchyma) between xCitroncirus Plants Relatively Resistant or Susceptible to Adults of the Asian Citrus Psyllid Diaphorina citri (Hemiptera: Liviidae) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110919.
The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP, Diaphorina citri, Hemiptera: Liviidae), is the principal vector of the phloem-limited bacteria strongly associated with huanglongbing (HLB), the world’s most serious disease of citrus. Host plant resistance may provide an environmentally safe and sustainable method of controlling ACP and/or HLB. Two xCitroncirus accessions (hybrids of Poncirus trifoliata and Citrus spp.), that are relatively resistant (UN-3881) or relatively susceptible (Troyer-1459) to ACP adults with regard to adult longevity, were compared in relation to ACP feeding behavior and some structural features of the leaf midrib. The settling (putative feeding/probing) sites of ACP adults on various parts of the leaf were not influenced primarily by plant accession. However, fewer ACP stylet sheaths were found in the midrib and fewer stylet sheath termini reached the vascular bundle (phloem and/or xylem) in UN-3881 compared to Troyer-1459 plants. Furthermore, in midribs of UN-3881 leaves the fibrous ring (sclerenchyma) around the phloem was significantly wider (thicker) compared to that in midribs of Troyer-1459 leaves. Our data indicate that feeding and/or probing by ACP adults into the vascular bundle is less frequent in the more resistant (UN-3881) than in the more susceptible (Troyer-1459) accessions. Our results also suggest that the thickness of the fibrous ring may be a barrier to stylet penetration into the vascular bundle, which is important for successful ACP feeding on the phloem and for transmitting HLB-associated bacteria. These results may help in the development of citrus plants resistant to ACP, which in turn could halt or slow the spread of the HLB-associated bacteria by this vector.
PMCID: PMC4208817  PMID: 25343712
24.  The Complete Genome Sequence of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’, the Bacterium Associated with Potato Zebra Chip Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19135.
Zebra Chip (ZC) is an emerging plant disease that causes aboveground decline of potato shoots and generally results in unusable tubers. This disease has led to multi-million dollar losses for growers in the central and western United States over the past decade and impacts the livelihood of potato farmers in Mexico and New Zealand. ZC is associated with ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’, a fastidious alpha-proteobacterium that is transmitted by a phloem-feeding psyllid vector, Bactericera cockerelli Sulc. Research on this disease has been hampered by a lack of robust culture methods and paucity of genome sequence information for ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’. Here we present the sequence of the 1.26 Mbp metagenome of ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’, based on DNA isolated from potato psyllids. The coding inventory of the ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ genome was analyzed and compared to related Rhizobiaceae to better understand ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ physiology and identify potential targets to develop improved treatment strategies. This analysis revealed a number of unique transporters and pathways, all potentially contributing to ZC pathogenesis. Some of these factors may have been acquired through horizontal gene transfer. Taxonomically, ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ is related to ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, a suspected causative agent of citrus huanglongbing, yet many genome rearrangements and several gene gains/losses are evident when comparing these two Liberibacter. species. Relative to ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, ‘Ca. L. solanacearum’ probably has reduced capacity for nucleic acid modification, increased amino acid and vitamin biosynthesis functionalities, and gained a high-affinity iron transport system characteristic of several pathogenic microbes.
PMCID: PMC3084294  PMID: 21552483
25.  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

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