A high-throughput system to identify inhibitors of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus transcription regulators

Barnett et al. (2019). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (36)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Citrus greening disease, also known as huanglongbing (HLB), is the most devastating disease of Citrus worldwide. This incurable disease is caused primarily by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus and spread by feeding of the Asian Citrus Psyllid, Diaphorina citri. Ca. L. asiaticus cannot be cultured; its growth is restricted to citrus phloem and the psyllid insect. Management of infected trees includes use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, which have disadvantages. Recent work has sought to identify small molecules that inhibit Ca. L. asiaticus transcription regulators, based on a premise that at least some regulators control expression of genes necessary for virulence. We describe a synthetic, high-throughput screening system to identify compounds that inhibit activity of Ca. L. asiaticus transcription activators LdtR, RpoH, and VisNR. Our system uses the closely related model bacterium, Sinorhizobium meliloti, as a heterologous host for expression of a Ca. L. asiaticus transcription activator, the activity of which is detected through expression of an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) gene fused to a target promoter. We used this system to screen more than 120,000 compounds for compounds that inhibited regulator activity, but not growth. Our screen identified several dozen compounds that inhibit regulator activity in our assay. This work shows that, in addition to providing a means of characterizing Ca. L. asiaticus regulators, an S. meliloti host can be used for preliminary identification of candidate inhibitory molecules.
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