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Colonization of Citrus Seed Coats by ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’: Implications for Seed Transmission of the Bacterium

October 2011 , Volume 101 , Number  10
Pages  1,242 - 1,250

Mark E. Hilf

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, United States Horticultural Research Laboratory, 2001 South Rock Road, Fort Pierce, FL 34945.

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Accepted for publication 8 June 2011.

Huanglongbing is an economically damaging disease of citrus associated with infection by ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’. Transmission of the organism via infection of seeds has not been demonstrated but is a concern since some citrus varieties, particularly those used as rootstocks in commercial plantings are propagated from seed. We compared the incidence of detection of ‘Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus’ DNA in individual fruit peduncles, seed coats, seeds, and in germinated seedlings from ‘Sanguenelli’ sweet orange and ‘Conners’ grapefruit fruits sampled from infected trees. Using real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) we detected pathogen DNA in nucleic acid extracts of 36 and 100% of peduncles from ‘Sanguenelli’ and from ‘Conners’ fruits, respectively. We also detected pathogen DNA in extracts of 37 and 98% of seed coats and in 1.6 and 4% of extracts from the corresponding seeds of ‘Sanguenelli’ and ‘Conners’, respectively. Small amounts of pathogen DNA were detected in 10% of ‘Sanguenelli’ seedlings grown in the greenhouse, but in none of 204 extracts from ‘Conners’ seedlings. Pathogen DNA was detected in 4.9% and in 89% of seed coats peeled from seeds of ‘Sanguenelli’ and ‘Conners’ which were germinated on agar, and in 5% of ‘Sanguenelli’ but in none of 164 ‘Conners’ seedlings which grew from these seeds on agar. No pathogen DNA was detected in ‘Ridge Pineapple’ tissue at 3 months post-grafting onto ‘Sanguenelli’ seedlings, even when pathogen DNA had been detected initially in the ‘Sanguenelli’ seedling. Though the apparent colonization of ‘Conners’ seeds was more extensive and nearly uniform compared with ‘Sanguenelli’ seeds, no pathogen DNA was detected in ‘Conners’ seedlings grown from these seeds. For either variety, no association was established between the presence of pathogen DNA in fruit peduncles and seed coats and in seedlings.

This article is in the public domain and not copyrightable. It may be freely reprinted with customary crediting of the source. The American Phytopathological Society, 2011.