New research from a UF/IFAS microbiologist suggests citrus greening is a pathogen-triggered immune disease.

New research out of UF/IFAS may well be a “game changer,” according to a UF/IFAS blog. A UF/IFAS Professor of Microbiology and Cell Science, Nian Wang recently published research that suggests citrus greening is a pathogen-triggered immune disease, which could bring about new possibilities in managing the disease. See the details below.

A Pathogen-Triggered Immune Disease

According to the blog, a pathogen-triggered immune disease is “a disease that results from the activation of an organism’s immune cells fighting a pathogen (a virus, bacteria, or parasite) that invades an organism” Essentially, the citrus greening symptoms that debilitate a citrus tree are caused by the tree’s own immune response, such as how a human’s fever from fighting an infection could become so high as to cause brain damage or organ failure.

Per the blog, “HLB infection stimulates systemic and chronic immune responses in phloem tissue, especially overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are part of the plant’s immune response.” These ROS cause phloem tissues to die, this creating citrus greening symptoms.

Researchers used growth hormones like gibberellic acid (GA) and antioxidants (uric acid and rutin) that “impact cell death” could halt or reverse citrus greening symptoms. Both gibberellic acid and uric acid had a positive impact on symptoms. Wang said in the blog, “Our findings allow us to control HLB by mitigating ROS with integrated horticultural measures, genetic improvements of citrus varieties with antioxidant enzymes, generating non-transgenic HLB resistant/tolerant citrus varieties by editing key genes required for CLas-triggered ROS production, and using CTV-mediated expression of antioxidant enzymes and silencing of key genes required for CLas-triggered ROS production.”

The research’s conclusion that citrus greening is a pathogen-triggered immune disease could change how researchers try to fight the disease.

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