Blocking the Transmission of a Noncirculative Vector-Borne Plant Pathogenic Bacterium
The successful control of insect-borne plant pathogens is often difficult to achieve due to the ecologically complex interactions among pathogens, vectors, and host plants. Disease management often relies on pesticides and other approaches that have limited long-term sustainability. To add a new tool to control vector-borne diseases, we attempted to block the transmission of a bacterial insect-transmitted pathogen, the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, by disrupting bacteria insect vector interactions. X. fastidiosa is known to attach to and colonize the cuticular surface of the mouthparts of vectors; a set of recombinant peptides was generated and the chemical affinities of these peptides to chitin and related carbohydrates was assayed in vitro. Two candidates, the X. fastidiosa hypothetical protein PD1764 and an N-terminal region of the hemagglutinin-like protein B (HxfB) showed affinity for these substrates. These proteins were provided to vectors via an artificial diet system in which insects acquire X. fastidiosa, followed by an inoculation access period on plants under greenhouse conditions. Both PD1764 and HxfAD1-3 significantly blocked transmission. Furthermore, bacterial populations within insects over a 10 day period demonstrated that these peptides inhibited cell adhesion to vectors but not bacterial multiplication, indicating that the mode of action of these peptides is restricted to limiting cell adhesion to insects, likely via competition for adhesion sites. These results open a new venue in the search for sustainable disease-control strategies that are pathogen specific and may have limited nontarget effects.