Quantitative real-time PCR for detection and identification of Candidatus Liberibacter species associated with citrus huanglongbing

Text - scientific article/review article


Citrus huanglongbing (HLB, ex greening) is one of the most serious diseases of citrus. Different forms of the disease are caused by different Candidatus Liberobacter species, Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (Las), Cu. L. africanus (Lao and Ca. L. americanus (Lam). The pathogen is transmitted by psyllid insects and by budding with contaminated plant materials. The vector psyllid Diaphorina citri can transmit both Las and Lam. Establishment of this vector into Florida, reports of Lam and Las in Brazil in 2004, and recent confirmation of HLB in Florida in September 2005 is of great concern to the citrus industry. Research on HLB has been hampered by the unculturable nature of the causal bacterium in artificial media. It has also been difficult to detect and identify the pathogens, possibly because of low concentration and uneven distribution in host plants and vector psyllids. In this study, we developed quantitative TaqMan PCR using 16S rDNA-based TaqMan primer-probe sets specific to the different Ca. Liberobaeter spp. An additional primer-probe set based on plant cytochrome oxidase (COX) was used as a positive internal control to assess the quality of the DNA extracts. The assays do not cross-react with other pathogens or endophytes commonly resident in citrus plants, and are very sensitive. HLB pathogen DNA was successfully amplified from the equivalent of 20 ng of midrib tissue from symptomatic leaves. The consistent results of the assays with DNA extracted from plants infected by various Ca. Liberibacter species grown in greenhouses and in the field demonstrated a degree of reproducibility for these TaqMan assays. Inhibitors of the PCR that are frequently present in plant extracts did not affect the assay results. The population of the pathogens was estimated to be 5 X 107 and 2 X 10(6) cells/g of fresh midribs of symptomatic sweet orange leaves infected by Las and Lam, respectively. The ratio of pathogen DNA to host plant DNA was estimated by to be 1: 13,000 (w/w) and 1: 1000 (c/c: target copy/target copy) in DNA extracts obtained by a standard CTAB method. Our rapid, sensitive and specific TaqMan PCR assay for the detection, identification and quantification of Ca. Liberibacter species has been successfully used in the confirmation of HLB caused by Las in Florida, and will be very useful for a broad range of research programs as well as the regulatory response and management of HLB disease. Published by Elsevier B.V.


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