Consortium Research Aims at HLB

Josh McGillHLB Management, Research

Scientists from the New Mexico Consortium (NMC) say research they have conducted may lead to development of strategies for the control of HLB disease.


The research is a collaborative effort between the Gupta laboratory, the NMC and the Stover laboratory at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS).

The study focuses on the two putative virulence proteins of Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) that are transmitted by psyllid vectors and causes HLB disease.

Loan Huynh, a senior research scientist at the New Mexico Consortium and Trait Biosciences, states that, “The immune response of plants includes proteins that seek out and kill pathogenic microorganisms. However, some bacteria remain toxic because they have evolved the ability to block these plant defenses. In this study, we used computer simulations to design a mimic of lipid transfer protein that is conserved in many plants, including citrus, and have shown that the mimic rescues bactericidal activity of the lipid transfer protein.”

In the study, the researchers have adopted an alternative systems-based approach. They determined how a single CLas protein may bind and inhibit several citrus proteins in the innate immune pathway, which is the first line of host defense against bacterial infection.

Supratim Basu, staff scientist at Washington University and consulting scientist with the NMC, says, “The identification of citrus targets like lipid transfer protein will pave the way for HLB disease therapy by using the protein not only as a bactericidal but also as an immune stimulator.”

Guixia Hao, a research scientist at the USDA/ARS, concludes that, “This research demonstrated the important role of two CLas effectors and identified their targets. We can exploit these targets, especially lipid transfer protein, to enhance citrus resistance to bacterial infection. This finding is important to develop novel strategies to control citrus HLB.”

Source: The New Mexico Consortium

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