Factors Affecting the Initial Adhesion and Retention of the Plant Pathogen Xylella fastidiosa in the Foregut of an Insect Vector

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Vector transmission of bacterial plant pathogens involves three steps: pathogen acquisition from an infected host, retention within the vector, and inoculation of cells into susceptible tissue of an uninfected plant. In this study, a combination of plant and artificial diet systems were used to determine the importance of several genes on the initial adhesion and retention of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa to an efficient insect vector. Mutant strains included fimbrial (fimA and pilB) and afimbrial (hxfA and hxfB) adhesins and three loci involved in regulatory systems (rpfF, rpfC, and cgsA). Transmission assays with variable retention time indicated that HxfA and HxfB were primarily important for early adhesion to vectors, while FimA was necessary for both adhesion and retention. The long pilus protein PilB was not deficient in initial adhesion but may be important for retention. Genes upregulated under the control of rpfF are important for both initial adhesion and retention, as transmission rates of this mutant strain were initially low and decreased over time, while disruption of rpfC and cgsA yielded trends similar to that shown by the wild-type control. Because induction of an X. fastidiosa transmissible state requires pectin, a series of experiments were used to test the roles of a polygalacturonase (pglA) and the pectin and galacturonic acid carbohydrates on the transmission of X. fastidiosa. Results show that galacturonic acid, or PglA activity breaking pectin into its major subunit (galacturonic acid), is required for X. fastidiosa vector transmission using an artificial diet system. This study shows that early adhesion and retention of X. fastidiosa are mediated by different factors. It also illustrates that the interpretation of results of vector transmission experiments, in the context of vector-pathogen interaction studies, is highly dependent on experimental design.


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  • Citrus sp.
  • Homalodisca vitripennis
  • Vitis vinifera
  • Xylella fastidiosa


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