Citrus Research and Education Center, Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, University of Florida, Lake Alfred 33850.
Citrus huanglongbing (HLB) is one of the oldest citrus diseases and has been known for over a century. HLB is caused by ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ spp. that are phloem-limited, fastidious α-proteobacteria and infect hosts in different Kingdoms (i.e., Animalia and Plantae). When compared with well-characterized, cultivatable plant-pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria, the interactions of uncultured insect-vectored plant-pathogenic bacteria, including ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ spp., with their hosts remain poorly understood. ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ spp. have been known to cause HLB, which has been rapidly spreading worldwide, resulting in dramatic economic losses. HLB presents an unprecedented challenge to citrus production. In this review, we focus on the most recent research on citrus, ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’, and psyllid interactions, specifically considering the following topics: evolutionary relationships among ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ spp., genetic diversity, host range, genome analysis, transmission, virulence mechanisms, and the ecological importance of HLB. Currently, no efficient management strategy is available to control HLB, although some promising progress has been made. Further studies are needed to understand citrus, ‘Ca. L. asiaticus’, and psyllid interactions to design innovative management strategies. Although HLB has been problematic for over a century, we can only win the battle against HLB with a coordinated and deliberate effort by the citrus industry, citrus growers, researchers, legislatures, and governments.