Investigation of Citrus HLB Symptom Variations Associated with “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” Strains Harboring Different Phages in Southern China

Bao et al. (2021). Agronomy 11 (11)
Names (1)
Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus
Agronomy and Crop Science
Huanglongbing (HLB) is a devastating disease affecting citrus production worldwide. In China, the disease is associated with an unculturable alpha-proteobacterium, “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus” (CLas). Phages/prophages of CLas have recently been identified through intensive genomic research. The phage information has facilitated research on CLas biology such as population diversity and virulence gene identification. However, little is known about the roles of CLas phages in HLB symptom development. Such research is challenging due to the unculturable nature of CLas and the lack of laboratory strains that carry a single phage. In this study, CLas strains singly carrying Type 1 phage (Type 1 CLas) and Type 2 phage (Type 2 CLas) were identified and maintained in an experimental screenhouse in southern China. The strains were characterized through next-generation sequencing (NGS). Then, each CLas strain was inoculated into seedlings of three different citrus cultivars/species through graft transmission in a screenhouse in Guangdong, China. Symptom developments were recorded. All CLas-infected cultivars showed HLB symptoms in seven months. In cultivar Nianju (Citrus reticulata), Type 1 CLas caused pronounced yellowing symptoms and severe defoliation, whereas Type 2 CLas caused typical Zn-deficiency-like symptoms. In contrast, symptoms from the two CLas strains’ infections on cultivars Shatianyu (C. maxima), and Eureka lemon (Citrus limon) were more difficult to differentiate. Results from this study provide baseline information for future research to investigate the roles of CLas phages in HLB symptom development.
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