Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Candidatus Liberibacter americanus induces significant reprogramming of the transcriptome of the susceptible citrus genotype

Valéria Mafra12, Polyana K Martins1, Carolina S Francisco1, Marcelo Ribeiro-Alves4, Juliana Freitas-Astúa13 and Marcos A Machado1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Citricultura Sylvio Moreira, Instituto Agronômico de Campinas, Cordeirópolis, São Paulo, Brazil

2 Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil

3 Embrapa Cassava & Fruits, Cruz das Almas, Bahia, Brazil

4 Laboratório de Pesquisa em Farmacogenética / Instituto de Pesquisa Clínica Evandro Chagas (IPEC) – Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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BMC Genomics 2013, 14:247  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-247

Published: 12 April 2013



Citrus huanglongbing (HLB) disease is caused by endogenous, phloem-restricted, Gram negative, uncultured bacteria named Candidatus Liberibacter africanus (CaLaf), Ca. L. asiaticus (CaLas), and Ca. L. americanus (CaLam), depending on the continent where the bacteria were first detected. The Asian citrus psyllid vector, Diaphorina citri, transmits CaLas and CaLam and both Liberibacter species are present in Brazil. Several studies of the transcriptional response of citrus plants manifesting HLB symptoms have been reported, but only for CaLas infection. This study evaluated the transcriptional reprogramming of a susceptible genotype of sweet orange challenged with CaLam, using a customized 385K microarray containing approximately 32,000 unigene transcripts. We analyzed global changes in gene expression of CaLam-infected leaves of sweet orange during the symptomatic stage of infection and compared the results with previously published microarray studies that used CaLas-infected plants. Twenty candidate genes were selected to validate the expression profiles in symptomatic and asymptomatic PCR-positive leaves infected with CaLas or CaLam.


The microarray analysis identified 633 differentially expressed genes during the symptomatic stage of CaLam infection. Among them, 418 (66%) were upregulated and 215 (34%) were down regulated. Five hundred and fourteen genes (81%) were orthologs of genes from Arabidopsis thaliana. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) revealed that several of the transcripts encoded transporters associated with the endomembrane system, especially zinc transport. Among the most biologically relevant gene transcripts in GSEA were those related to signaling, metabolism and/or stimulus to hormones, genes responding to stress and pathogenesis, biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, oxidative stress and transcription factors belonging to different families. Real time PCR of 20 candidate genes validated the expression pattern of some genes in symptomatic and asymptomatic leaves infected with CaLam or CaLas.


Many gene transcripts and biological processes are significantly altered upon CaLam infection. Some of them had been identified in response to CaLas infection, while others had not been previously reported. These data will be useful for selecting target genes for genetic engineering to control HLB.

Gene expression; Sweet orange; huanglongbing; Plant-pathogen interaction