Spatial chemistry of citrus reveals molecules bactericidal toCandidatusLiberibacter asiaticus

Aksenov et al. (2024).
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AbstractHuanglongbing (HLB), associated with the psyllid-vectored phloem-limited bacterium,CandidatusLiberibacter asiaticus(CLas), is a disease threat to all citrus production worldwide. Currently, there are no sustainable curative or prophylactic treatments available. In this study, we utilized mass spectrometry (MS)-based metabolomics in combination with 3D molecular mapping to visualize complex chemistries within plant tissues to explore how these chemistries changein vivoin HLB-impacted trees. We demonstrate how spatial information from molecular maps of branches and single leaves yields insight into the biology not accessible otherwise. In particular, we found evidence that flavonoid biosynthesis is disrupted in HLB-impacted trees, and an increase in the polyamine, feruloylputrescine, is highly correlated with an increase in disease severity. Based on mechanistic details revealed by these molecular maps, followed by metabolic modeling, we formulated and tested the hypothesis thatCLas infection either directly or indirectly converts the precursor compound, ferulic acid, to feruloylputrescine to suppress the antimicrobial effects of ferulic acid and biosynthetically downstream flavonoids. Usingin vitrobioassays, we demonstrated that ferulic acid and bioflavonoids are indeed highly bactericidal toCLas, with the activity on par with a reference antibiotic, oxytetracycline, recently approved for HLB management. We propose these compounds should be evaluated as therapeutics alternatives to the antibiotics for HLB treatment. Overall, the utilized 3D metabolic mapping approach provides a promising methodological framework to identify pathogen-specific inhibitory compoundsin plantafor potential prophylactic or therapeutic applications.
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