Growth of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ in Commercial Grapefruit Juice-Based Media Formulations Reveals Common Cell Density-Dependent Transient Behaviors

Merfa e Silva et al. (2022). Phytopathology® 112 (1)
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Agronomy and Crop Science Plant Science
The phloem-restricted, insect-transmitted bacterium ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) is associated with huanglongbing (HLB), the most devastating disease of citrus worldwide. The inability to culture CLas impairs the understanding of its virulence mechanisms and the development of effective management strategies to control this incurable disease. Previously, our research group used commercial grapefruit juice (GJ) to prolong the viability of CLas in vitro. In the present study, GJ was amended with a wide range of compounds and incubated under different conditions to optimize CLas growth. Remarkably, results showed that CLas growth ratios were inversely proportional to the initial inoculum concentration. This correlation is probably regulated by a cell density-dependent mechanism, because diluting samples between subcultures allowed CLas to resume growth. Moreover, strategies to reduce the cell density of CLas, such as subculturing at short intervals and incubating samples under flow conditions, allowed this bacterium to multiply and reach maximum growth as early as 3 days after inoculation, although no sustained exponential growth was observed under any tested condition. Unfortunately, cultures were only transient, because CLas lost viability over time; nevertheless, we obtained populations of about 105 genome equivalents/ml repeatedly. Finally, we established an ex vivo system to grow CLas within periwinkle calli that could be used to propagate bacterial inoculum in the lab. In this study we determined the influence of a comprehensive set of conditions and compounds on CLas growth in culture. We hope our results will help guide future efforts toward the long-sought goal of culturing CLas axenically.
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