Quantification of Xylella fastidiosa from citrus trees by real-time polymerase chain reaction assay
Xylella fastidiosa is the causal agent of citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC), a destructive disease of sweet orange cultivars in Brazil. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays constitute the principal diagnostic method for detection of these bacteria. In this work, we established a real-time quantitative PCR (QPCR) assay to quantify X. fastidiosa in naturally and artificially infected citrus. The X. fastidiosa cell number detected in the leaves increased according to the age of the leaf, and bacteria were not detected in the upper midrib section in young leaves, indicating temporal and spatial distribution patterns of bacteria, respectively. In addition, the X. fastidiosa cell number quantified in leaves of 'Pera' orange and 'Murcott' tangor reflected the susceptible and resistant status of these citrus cultivars. None of the 12 endophytic citrus bacteria or the four strains of X. fastidiosa nonpathogenic to citrus that were tested showed an increase in the fluorescence signal during QPCR. In contrast, all 10 CVC-causing strains exhibited an increase in fluorescence signal, thus indicating the specificity of this QPCR assay. Our QPCR provides a powerful tool for studies of different aspects of the Xylella-citrus interactions. and can be incorporated into breeding programs in order to select CVC-resistant plants more quickly.