Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater 74078
Two microtiter plate assays were developed to study the adherence of the plant-pathogenic mollicute Spiroplasma citri to a monolayer of cultured cells of its leafhopper vector, Circulifer tenellus. Adherence was significantly reduced by prior treatment of the spiroplasmas with proteinase K or pronase. Electrophoresis and western blotting of spiroplasma membrane proteins, before and after exposure of intact spiroplasmas to proteases, revealed the concomitant reduction in intensity of a major membrane protein (P89) and a new polypeptide of ≈46 kDa in protease-treated preparations (P46). Triton X-114 phase partitioning demonstrated that P89 and P46 are amphiphilic, and labeling of the new polypeptide P46 with anti-P89 serum suggested that this molecule may be a breakdown product of P89. Regeneration of P89 after proteinase K treatment of spiroplasmas was directly associated with restoration of the pathogen's attachment capability. Treatment of spiroplasmas with any of several carbohydrates and glycoconjugates or with tetramethyl-urea, a compound that interferes with hydrophobic associations, had a negligible effect on attachment. These results suggest that a spiroplasma surface protein, P89, has a role in S. citri adherence to C. tenellus cells.