Catharanthus roseus, an experimental host plant for the citrus strain of Xylella fastidiosa
We verified by pathogenicity tests that the herbaceous plant Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) can be used as an experimental host for the strain of Xylella fastidiosa that causes citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC). Plants were mechanically inoculated with CVC strain 9a5c, the genome of which was recently sequenced. Plants were inoculated with the virulent 8th passage (9a5c-8) and the 51st passage (9a5c-51). Leaf deformation and stunting were seen 2 months after inoculation on 18 of 21 plants with 9a5c-8 and 8 of 21 plants with 9a5c-51. The plants were infected with X. fastidiosa as shown by polymerase chain reaction. The bacterium could be reisolated from all plants tested, showing that CVC-X. fastidiosa multiplied and moved systemically in C. roseus plants causing dysfunction in plant growth. The disease symptoms evolved within 4 months post-inoculation to a severe leaf chlorosis in all inoculated plants. The localization of X. fastidiosa in the xylem was verified by immunofluorescence. Genes coding for proteins with homologies to plant sterol-C-methyltransferase, a transketolase-like protein, subunit III of photosystem I, and a desiccation protectant protein were found to be differentially expressed in symptomatic C. roseus plants as a response to infection with X. fastidiosa in comparison to healthy plants. A tentative correlation between the pattern of expression of these C. roseus genes with the mechanism of pathogenicity of X. fastidiosa is discussed.