Biotech Updates

Researchers Find Peptide that Treats and Prevents Citrus Greening

February 10, 2021

Orange tree leaves with symptoms of Huanglongbing, also known as “citrus greening disease.” Photo Source: Tim Gottwald/ARS Image Gallery

Research conducted by scientists from the University of California Riverside (UC Riverside) has identified that a unique peptide found in an Australian plant can destroy Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening, the top killer of citrus trees worldwide.

The UC Riverside research could possibly provide the most effective way of treating the disease through the antimicrobial peptide found in Australian finger lime, a close relative of citrus plants. Hailing Jin, the UC Riverside geneticist who led the research said that the peptide's corkscrew-like helix structure quickly punctures the bacterium, causing it to leak fluid and die within half an hour, much faster than antibiotics.

When the research team injected the peptide into plants already sick with HLB, the plants survived and grew healthy new shoots. Infected plants that went untreated became sicker and some eventually died. "This shows the peptide can rescue infected plants, which is important as so many trees are already positive," Jin said.

Aside from its efficacy against the bacterium, the stable anti-microbial peptide, or SAMP, offers more benefits over current control methods. It remains stable and active even when used in 130-degree heat, unlike most antibiotic sprays that are heat sensitive — an important attribute for citrus orchards in hot climates like Florida and parts of California.

For more details, read the article in UC Riverside News.

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