Lack of Evidence for Transmission of 'Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus' Through Citrus Seed Taken from Affected Fruit
Citrus huanglongbing, putatively caused by the associated bacterium 'Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus', is the greatest threat to the world citrus industry today. The bacterium is spread locally and regionally by the citrus psyllid Diaphorina citri, and also can be disseminated by propagation of contaminated scion budwood that is grafted to the appropriate rootstock. The planting of 'Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus'-free trees is a component of a comprehensive strategy to manage huanglongbing. In contrast to the scion budwood, the rootstocks used to produce these trees are grown from seed. This research was undertaken to provide evidence as to whether or not 'Ca. L. asiaticus' can be transmitted through seed. Two groups of 360 or more seedlings each of various citrus species were grown from seed removed from fruit on trees that were symptomatic for huanglongbing and confirmed to be infected with 'Ca. L. asiaticus' by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. These seedlings were tested multiple times over periods of up to 3 years. No symptoms typical of huanglongbing, such as blotchy leaf mottle, chlorotic shoots, or dieback of branches, were observed in these seedlings, and none of these 723 seedlings tested positive for the presence of 'Ca. L. asiaticus' even after repeated testing by sensitive quantitative PCR assays. Some sour orange seedlings did have quite pronounced and atypical growth, including stunting and mild to severe leaf malformation. These atypical growth habits were limited to seedlings that arose from zygotic embryos as determined by expressed-sequence tag simple-sequence repeat analyses. Thus, no evidence of transmission of 'Ca. L. asiaticus' via seed was obtained, and an earlier report of transmission of the pathogen through seed was not confirmed.