Copper Supplementation in Watering Solution Reaches the Xylem But Does Not Protect Tobacco Plants Against Xylella fastidiosa Infection
Xylella fastidiosa is a xylem-limited plant pathogenic bacterium that causes disease in many crops worldwide. Copper (Cu) is an antimicrobial agent widely used on X. fastidiosa hosts to control other diseases. Although the effects of Cu for control of foliar pathogens are well known, it is less studied on xylem-colonizing pathogens. Previous results from our group showed that low concentrations of CuSO4 increased biofilm formation, whereas high concentrations inhibited biofilm formation and growth in vitro. In this study, we conducted in planta experiments to determine the influence of Cu in X. fastidiosa infection using tobacco as a model. X. fastidiosa-infected and noninfected plants were watered with tap water or with water supplemented with 4 mM or 8 mM of CuSO4. Symptom progression was assessed, and sap and leaf ionome analysis was performed by inductively coupled plasma with optical emission spectroscopy. Cu uptake was confirmed by increased concentrations of Cu in the sap of plants treated with CuSO4-amended water. Leaf scorch symptoms in Cu-supplemented plants showed a trend toward more severe at later time points. Quantification of total and viable X. fastidiosa in planta indicated that CuSO4-amended treatments did not inhibit but slightly increased the growth of X. fastidiosa. Cu in sap was in the range of concentrations that promote X. fastidiosa biofilm formation according to our previous in vitro study. Based on these results, we proposed that the plant Cu homeostasis machinery controls the level of Cu in the xylem, preventing it from becoming elevated to a level that would lead to bacterial inhibition.