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Know thy enemy: Culturing Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus is critical to developing new therapies for Huanglongbing

Olufemi Alabi: Dept. of Plant Pathology & Microbiology, Texas A&M University

<div>Huanglongbing (HLB) is a destructive disease of citrus. HLB is consistently associated with infection of phloem-inhabiting <em>Candidatus</em> Liberibacter bacterial species, the predominant species being <em>Ca.</em> Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas). However, the inability to obtain CLas in axenic culture has made it impossible to prove Koch’s postulate for HLB. In addition, efforts to develop/test therapeutic compounds and evaluation of potential sources of HLB resistance are largely impaired by the inability to culture CLas. To address this key knowledge gap, our project team was funded by a grant from the USDA-NIFA-CDRE entitled "Developing new therapies for Huanglongbing via culturing Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus.” The team led by Dr. Dean Gabriel, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL includes 11 co-project directors drawn from seven institutions across the major US citrus producing states of Florida, California and Texas, as well as Colombia, South America. The key objectives of the project are: 1) Concerted, parallel and coordinated efforts towards obtaining viable CLas cultures; 2) Define the influence of physical environment in CLas culturability; 3) Define the role of chemical signaling and co‐factors in culturability of CLas; 4) Develop genetic tools that enable delivery of (missing) candidate growth factor genes identified and partially characterized into CLas; and 5) Extending research outcomes to benefit growers and the scientific community.</div>