Citrus Research and Education Center, University of Florida, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred 33850.
Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB) is one of the most devastating diseases of citrus worldwide. The causal agent of HLB in Florida is thought to be ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’. In this work, we examined the responses of 30 different genotypes of citrus to Florida isolates of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ under controlled conditions in the greenhouse or growth room. Although ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ was able to multiply in all of the plants, a wide range of responses was observed among different hosts. Based on the symptoms developed and the ability of plants to continue growth, the different genotypes were grouped into four categories: sensitive, which exhibited severe chlorosis on leaves, greatly reduced growth, and eventual death; moderately tolerant, which exhibited some scattered distinct symptoms but little or no growth reduction and no plant death; tolerant, which exhibited very minimal symptoms; and genotypes, which exhibited variable reactions. Interestingly, although ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ was unevenly distributed within each particular plant, comparison of titers of the bacterium in different citrus genotypes revealed that most accumulated similar levels of ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, demonstrating that there is no strict correlation between bacterial titer and severity of disease. Incubation of infected plants in the growth room with continuous light greatly affected symptoms production by reducing the time before distinctive symptoms developed and significantly increasing severity of chlorosis of leaves of all citrus genotypes. These results provide additional evidence of the correlation between disruption of phloem translocation of carbohydrates during HLB infection and the appearance of chlorotic symptoms in leaves of infected trees. We also examined interaction between ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ and Citrus tristeza virus, which usually occurs in trees that become infected with HLB, and found no synergistic effect of the two pathogens. We trust that observations reported here will provide reagents for further examination of the ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’--citrus interaction to advance the understanding of how ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’ causes disease and to develop methods or trees to overcome the disease.