Context-dependent transmission of a generalist plant pathogen: host species and pathogen strain mediate insect vector competence
The specificity of pathogen-vector-host interactions is an important element of disease epidemiology. For generalist pathogens, different pathogen strains, vector species, or host species may all contribute to variability in disease incidence. One such pathogen is Xylella fastidiosa Wells et al., a xylem-limited bacterium that infects dozens of crop, ornamental, and native plants in the USA. This pathogen also has a diverse vector complex and multiple biologically distinct strains. We studied the implications of diversity in this pathogen-vector-host system, by quantifying variability in transmission efficiency of different X. fastidiosa strains (isolates from almond and grape genetic groups) for different host plants (grape, almond, and alfalfa) by two of the most important vectors in California: glassy-winged sharpshooter [Homalodisca vitripennis (Germar)] and green sharpshooter (Draeculacephala minerva Ball) (both Hemiptera: Cicadellidae). Transmission of isolates of the almond strain by H. vitripennis did not differ significantly, whereas transmission varied significantly among isolates from the grape strain (15-90%). Host plant species did not affect H. vitripennis transmission. Conversely, D. minerva efficiency was mediated by both host plant species and pathogen strain. No acquisition of an almond isolate occurred regardless of plant type (0/122), whereas acquisition of a grape isolate from alfalfa was 10-fold higher than from grape or almond plants. These results suggest that pathogen, vector, and host diversity impose contingencies on the transmission ecology of this complex disease system. Studies aimed at the development of management strategies for X. fastidiosa diseases should consider the complexity of these interactions as they relate to disease spread.