Xylella fastidiosa Afimbrial Adhesins Mediate Cell Transmission to Plants by Leafhopper Vectors
The interactions between the economically important plant-pathogenic bacterium Xylella fastidiosa and its leafhopper vectors are poorly characterized. We used different approaches to determine how X. fastidiosa cells interact with the cuticular surface of the foreguts of vectors. We demonstrate that X. fastidiosa binds to different polysaccharides with various affinities and that these interactions are mediated by cell surface carbohydrate-binding proteins. In addition, competition assays showed that N-acetylglucosamine inhibits bacterial adhesion to vector foregut extracts and intact wings, demonstrating that attachment to leafhopper surfaces is affected in the presence of specific polysaccharides. In vitro experiments with several X. fastidiosa knockout mutants indicated that hemagglutinin-like proteins are associated with cell adhesion to polysaccharides. These results were confirmed with biological experiments in which hemagglutinin-like protein mutants were transmitted to plants by vectors at lower rates than that of the wild type. Furthermore, although these mutants were defective in adhesion to the cuticle of vectors, their growth rate once attached to leafhoppers was similar to that of the wild type, suggesting that these proteins are important for initial adhesion of X. fastidiosa to leafhoppers. We propose that X. fastidiosa colonization of leafhopper vectors is a complex, stepwise process similar to the formation of biofilms on surfaces.