New Targets Found for HLB Treatments

Len Wilcox California Corner, Research

HLB symptoms on citrus leaves

Thanks to recent advances in metabolic modeling, scientists are closer to gaining the upper hand on citrus greening (also known as huanglongbing or HLB), a disease that has wiped out citrus orchards across the globe. New models of the bacterium linked to the disease reveal control methods that were previously unavailable.

Metabolic models of organisms are like road maps of cities.

“They show you all the biological processes and how they work together,” said University of California Riverside microbiology professor James Borneman. “They also show you which molecular pathways, if blocked, will kill the organism.”

In this case, researchers created the first models of the bacterium associated with HLB. The team’s work is described in a new paper published in Nature’s npj Systems Biology and Applications.

The research team made models for six different strains of the bacterium known as CLas, which enabled them to identify as many as 94 enzymes essential for the bacterium’s survival. These enzymes can now be considered targets for the creation of new antibacterial treatments.

In addition, the team identified metabolites required for the bacteria to grow.

“Just like when humans break down the food they eat into small components called metabolites, which feed our cells, bacterial cells also require metabolites for their growth,” Borneman said.

Knowing the metabolites needed for CLas growth could enable scientists to cultivate it in a laboratory setting. It is not currently possible to grow CLas on its own, hindering scientists’ ability to study it and ultimately to manage it.

This research project involved a collaboration between UC Riverside, UC San Diego, Texas A&M University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition to Borneman, members of the modeling team included UCR plant pathologist Georgios Vidalakis and UCSD systems biologist Karsten Zengler.

In other UC Riverside citrus news, a peptide that may control HLB was recently discovered in finger lime. Read more.

Source: UC Riverside