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An Excised Leaf Assay to Measure Acquisition of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ by Psyllids Associated with Citrus Huanglongbing Disease

David O. Igwe, Steven A. Higgins, Michelle Heck
Phytopathology 2022 v.112 no.1 pp. 69-75
Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, Citrus, Diaphorina citri, Psyllidae, genes, greening disease, instars, leaves, pathogens, plant pathology, quantitative polymerase chain reaction
Huanglongbing, or citrus greening disease, is the most serious disease of citrus worldwide and is associated with plant infection by ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) and other Liberibacter species. CLas is transmitted by Diaphorina citri, the Asian citrus psyllid, in a circulative propagative manner. Circulative propagative transmission is a complex process comprising at least three steps: movement of the pathogen into vector tissues, translocation and replication of the pathogen within the vector host, and pathogen inoculation of a new host by the vector. In this work, we describe an excised leaf CLas acquisition assay, which enables precise measurements of CLas acquisition by D. citri in a streamlined laboratory assay. Briefly, healthy fourth and fifth instar D. citri nymphs acquire CLas from excised CLas-positive leaves, where the insects also complete their developmental cycle. CLas titer in the resulting adults is measured using quantitative PCR and CLas-specific 16S rRNA gene primers. We observed positive correlations between CLas titer in each leaf replicate and the CLas titer that developed in the insects after acquisition (rₛ = 0.78; P = 0.0002). This simple assay could be used to detect CLas acquisition phenotypes and their underlying genotypes, facilitate assessment of plant factors that impact acquisition, and screen for compounds that interfere with CLas acquisition by delivering these compounds through the excised leaf.