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A new and accurate qPCR protocol to detect plant pathogenic bacteria of the genus ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’ in plants and insects

Nature (Open Access)

Scientific Reports volume 13, Article number: 3338 (2023)


Four pathogenic bacterial species of the genus ‘Candidatus Liberibacter’, transmitted by psyllid vectors, have been associated with serious diseases affecting economically important crops of Rutaceae, Apiaceae and Solanaceae families. The most severe disease of citrus plants, huanglongbing (HLB), is associated with ‘Ca. Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CaLas), ‘Ca. Liberibacter americanus’ (CaLam) and ‘Ca. Liberibacter africanus’ (CaLaf), while ‘Ca. Liberibacter solanacearum’ (CaLsol) is associated with zebra chip disease in potatoes and vegetative disorders in apiaceous plants. Since these bacteria remain non-culturable and their symptoms are non-specific, their detection and identification are done by molecular methods, mainly based on PCR protocols. In this study, a new quantitative real-time PCR protocol based on TaqMan probe, which can also be performed in a conventional PCR version, has been developed to detect the four known phytopathogenic species of the genus Liberibacter. The new protocol has been validated according to European Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) guidelines and is able to detect CaLas, CaLam, CaLaf and CaLsol in both plants and vectors, not only using purified DNA but also using crude extracts of potato and citrus or psyllids. A comparative analysis with other previously described qPCR protocols revealed that this new one developed in this study is more specific and equally or more sensitive. Thus, other genus-specific qPCR protocols have important drawbacks regarding the lack of specificity, while with the new protocol there was no cross-reactions in 250 samples from 24 different plant and insect species from eight different geographical origins. Therefore, it can be used as a rapid and time-saving screening test, as it allows simultaneous detection of all plant pathogenic species of ‘Ca. Liberibacter’ in a one-step assay.

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