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A stable antimicrobial peptide with dual functions of treating and preventing citrus Huanglongbing

Huang Chien-Yu, Araujo Karla, Sánchez Jonatan Niño, Kund Gregory, Trumble John, Roper Caroline, Godfrey Kristine Elvin, Jin Hailing
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences pp. -
Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, Citrus, Microcitrus, antimicrobial peptides, bacteria, cultivars, cytosol, greenhouses, greening disease, heat stability, innate immunity
Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB), caused by a vector-transmitted phloem-limited bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), is the most devastating citrus disease worldwide. Currently, there are no effective strategies to prevent infection or to cure HLB-positive trees. Here, using comparative analysis between HLB-sensitive citrus cultivars and HLB-tolerant citrus hybrids and relatives, we identified a novel class of stable antimicrobial peptides (SAMPs). The SAMP from Microcitrus australiasica can rapidly kill Liberibacter crescens (Lcr), a culturable Liberibacter strain, and inhibit infections of CLas and CL. solanacearum in plants. In controlled greenhouse trials, SAMP not only effectively reduced CLas titer and disease symptoms in HLB-positive trees but also induced innate immunity to prevent and inhibit infections. Importantly, unlike antibiotics, SAMP is heat stable, making it better suited for field applications. Spray-applied SAMP was taken up by citrus leaves, stayed stable inside the plants for at least a week, and moved systemically through the vascular system where CLas is located. We further demonstrate that SAMP is most effective on α-proteobacteria and causes rapid cytosol leakage and cell lysis. The α-helix-2 domain of SAMP is sufficient to kill Lcr. Future field trials will help determine the efficacy of SAMP in controlling HLB and the ideal mode of application.