Comparative Genomics Screen Identifies Microbe-Associated Molecular Patterns from ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ spp. That Elicit Immune Responses in Plants

Chen et al. (2020). Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions® 33 (3)
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Agronomy and Crop Science General Medicine Physiology
Citrus huanglongbing (HLB), caused by phloem-limited ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ bacteria, is a destructive disease threatening the worldwide citrus industry. The mechanisms of pathogenesis are poorly understood and no efficient strategy is available to control HLB. Here, we used a comparative genomics screen to identify candidate microbe-associated molecular patterns (MAMPs) from ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ spp. We identified the core genome from multiple ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ pathogens, and searched for core genes with signatures of positive selection. We hypothesized that genes encoding putative MAMPs would evolve to reduce recognition by the plant immune system, while retaining their essential functions. To efficiently screen candidate MAMP peptides, we established a high-throughput microtiter plate-based screening assay, particularly for citrus, that measured reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, which is a common immune response in plants. We found that two peptides could elicit ROS production in Arabidopsis and Nicotiana benthamiana. One of these peptides elicited ROS production and defense gene expression in HLB-tolerant citrus genotypes, and induced MAMP-triggered immunity against the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae. Our findings identify MAMPs that boost immunity in citrus and could help prevent or reduce HLB infection.
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