Interactive effects of water stress and xylem-limited bacterial infection on the water relations of a host vine
Xylella fastidiosa, a xylem-limited bacterial pathogen that causes bacterial leaf scorch in its hosts, has a diverse and extensive host range among plant species worldwide. Previous work has shown that water stress enhances leaf scorch symptom severity and progression along the stem in Parthenocissus quinquefolia infected by X. fastidiosa. The objective here was to investigate the mechanisms underlying the interaction of water stress and infection by X. fastidiosa. Using the eastern deciduous forest vine, P. quinquefolia, infection and water availability were manipulated while measuring leaf water potent a (Psi(L)), stomatal conductance (g(s)), whole shoot hydraulic conductance (K-h), per cent xylem embolism, an xylem vessel dimensions. No significant differences in any of the physiological measurements were found between control and infected plants prior to drought. Drought treatment significantly reduced Psi(L) and g(s) at call leaf positions throughout the day in late summer in both years of the study. In addition, infection significantly reduced Psi(L) and g(s) in the most basal leaf positions in late summer in both years. Whole shoot hydraulic conductance was reduced by both low water and infection treatments. However, per cent embolized vessels and mean vessel diameter were affected by drought treatment only. These results imply that the major effect of infection by X. fastidiosa occurs due to reduced hydraulic conductance caused by clogging of the vessels, and not increased cavitation and embolism of xylem elements. The reduced K-h caused by X. fastidiosa infection acts additively with the water limitation imposed by Drought stress.