Copper resistance of biofilm cells of the plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa
Xylella fastidiosa is a phytopathogen that causes diseases in different plant species. The development of disease symptoms is associated to the blockage of the xylem vessels caused by biofilm formation. In this study, we evaluated the sensitivity of biofilm and planktonic cells to copper, one of the most important antimicrobial agents used in agriculture. We measured the exopolysaccharides (EPS) content in biofilm and planktonic cells and used real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction to evaluate the expression of the genes encoding proteins involved in cation/multidrug extrusion (acrA/B, mexE/czcA, and metI) and others associated with different copper resistance mechanisms (copB, cutA1, cutA2, and cutC) in the X. fastidiosa biofilm formed in two different media. We confirmed that biofilms are less susceptible to copper than planktonic cells. The amount of EPS seems to be directly related to the resistance and it varies according to the media where the cells are grown. The same was observed for gene expression. Nevertheless, some genes seem to have a greater importance in biofilm cells resistance to copper. Our results suggest a synergistic effect between diffusion barriers and other mechanisms associated with bacterial resistance in this phytopathogen. These mechanisms are important for a bacterium that is constantly under stress conditions in the host.