Strain-specific alfalfa water stress induced by Xylella fastidiosa

Text - scientific article/review article


Differences in the virulence of a pathogen among host species can occur because hosts differ in their resistance or tolerance to infection or because of underlying genetic variation in the pathogen. The xylem-limited bacterium Xylella fastidiosa is pathogenic to dozens of plant species throughout the Americas, and is structured into genetically and biologically distinct strains. In some plants X. fastidiosa causes striking leaf scorch symptoms and in others, such as alfalfa, stunting is the primary symptom. The mechanism by which these symptoms occur has been debated. We tested the hypothesis that symptoms result from X. fastidiosa-induced water stress, and that the magnitude of water stress is strain-dependent. We mechanically inoculated alfalfa plants with one of 14 isolates (5 identified genetically as "almond" and 9 as "grape" isolates), and compared stable carbon isotope ratios among isolates. Infected plants showed significant isotopic shifts (up to 2% on average) relative to healthy plants that were consistent with water stress. Moreover, there were significant differences in water stress among isolates, with a tendency for grape isolates to cause more severe water stress than almond isolates. There was also a positive relationship between plant infection level and isotopic shift (slope +/- SE = 0.273 +/- 0.068), which supports the hypothesis that X. fastidiosa symptoms result from bacterial multiplication and vessel occlusion. Unexpectedly, however, water stress was not correlated with measures of alfalfa stunting. These results suggest X. fastidiosa induces strain-specific levels of water stress, but factors other than water stress alone are responsible for stunting.


no licence specified -


  • Xylella fastidiosa