Identification and Distribution of the ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’-Asian Citrus Psyllid Pathosystem in Saudi Arabia

    Authors and Affiliations
    • Yasser E. Ibrahim1 2
    • Mohammed A. Al-Saleh1
    • Arya Widyawan1
    • Mahmoud H. El Komy1
    • Hathal M. Al Dhafer1
    • Judith K. Brown3
    1. 1Plant Protection Department, College of Food and Agriculture Sciences, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    2. 2Bacterial Diseases Research Department, Plant Pathology Research Institute, Agricultural Research Center, Giza, Egypt
    3. 3School of Plant Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, U.S.A.

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    Citrus greening disease was first reported in Saudi Arabia during the 1970s when characteristic foliar and fruit symptoms were observed in commercial citrus groves. However, ‘Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus’ (CLas) was not detected in symptomatic trees until 1981 to 1984 when CLas-like cells were observed by transmission electron microscopy in leaves collected from symptomatic citrus groves in southwestern Saudi Arabia. Despite the anticipated establishment of the CLas-Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) (Diaphorina citri Kuwayama) pathosystem, CLas presence has not been verified in suspect trees nor have ACP infestations been documented. Given the recent expansion of citrus production in Saudi Arabia, a systematic country-wide survey was carried out to determine the potential CLas distribution in the 13 citrus-growing regions of the country. Citrus trees were surveyed for the presence of CLas-psyllid vector(s) and characteristic disease symptoms in commercial and urban citrus trees. Adult psyllids collected from infested citrus trees were identified as ACP based on morphological characteristics. Real-time quantitative PCR amplification (qPCR) of the CLas β-subunit of the ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) gene from citrus leaf and fruit samples and/or ACP adults revealed that trees were positive for CLas detection in 10 of the 13 survey regions; however, CLas was undetectable in ACP adults. Phylogenetic and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analyses of a PCR-amplified, cloned fragment of the CLas 16S rRNA gene (∼1.1 kbp) indicated Saudi Arabian isolates were most closely related to Florida, U.S.A., isolates. Analysis of climate variables indicated that the distribution of the ACP-CLas pathosystem observed in Saudi Arabia was consistent with published predictions of terrains most likely to support establishment.

    Literature Cited