Transcriptome profiling of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus in citrus and psyllids

De Francesco et al. (2021).
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Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (Las) is an emergent bacterial pathogen that is associated with the devastating citrus Huanglongbing (HLB). Vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid, Las colonizes the phloem tissue of citrus, causing severe damage to infected trees. So far, cultivating pure Las culture in axenic media has not been successful and dual-transcriptome analyses aiming to profile gene expression in both Las and its host(s) have a low coverage of the Las genome due to the low abundance of bacterial RNA in total RNA extracts from infected tissues. Therefore, the lack of a Las transcriptome remains as a significant knowledge gap. Here, we used a bacterial cell enrichment procedure and confidently determined the expression profiles of approximately 84% of the Las genes. Genes that exhibited the highest expression levels in citrus include ion transporters, ferritin, outer membrane porins, and genes involved in phage-related functions, pilus formation, cell wall modification, and stress responses. One hundred and six genes were found to be differentially expressed in citrus vs psyllids. Genes related to transcription/translation and resilience to host defense response were upregulated in citrus; whereas genes involved in energy generation and the flagella system were expressed to higher levels in psyllids. We also determined the relative expression levels of potential Sec-dependent effectors, which are considered as key virulence factors of Las. This work advances our understanding of HLB biology and offers novel insight into the interactions of Las with its plant host and insect vector.
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