For decades, the production of acid lime (Citrus aurantifolia) in Oman has been affected by diseases caused by phytoplasmas, notably witches’ broom disease of lime (WBDL). In recent years, a new phytoplasma strain in Oman has been observed that promotes the sudden decline of lime (SDL). The molecular mechanisms behind its pathogenicity and mode of interaction with citrus host plants is still completely unknown. In this study, we evaluated the differential expression of genes in symptomatic and asymptomatic lime trees in Oman using a real-time quantitative PCR assay. Among 27 regulatory and biosynthesis-related genes tested in Citrus aurantifolia plants during phytoplasma infection, we verified the presence of 14 responsive genes in plants showing SDL symptoms, revealing a specific set of SDL-responsive genes. Quantification data of endogenous 3-indoleacetic acid and jasmonic acid show an unbalanced hormonal content in symptomatic lime trees, corroborating the gene expression data. The identification of regulatory genes differentially expressed in plant-phytoplasma interactions during SDL will help to elucidate the mechanisms possibly involved in defense responses, development and death-triggered signals in infected citrus plants.
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