Xylem cavitation susceptibility and refilling mechanisms in olive trees infected by Xylella fastidiosa

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Description

In olive trees, Xylella fastidiosa colonizes xylem vessels and compromises water transport causing the olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS). The loss of hydraulic conductivity could be attributed to vessel occlusions induced both by the bacteria biofilm and by plant responses (tyloses, gums, etc.) that could trigger embolism. The ability of the infected plants to detect embolism and to respond, by activating mechanisms to restore the hydraulic conductivity, can influence the severity of the disease symptomatology. In order to investigate these mechanisms in the X. fastidiosa-resistant olive cultivar Leccino and in the susceptible Cellina di Nardo, sections of healthy olive stems were analysed by laser scanning microscope to calculate the cavitation vulnerability index. Findings indicated that the cultivar Leccino seems to be constitutively less susceptible to cavitation than the susceptible one. Among the vascular refilling mechanisms, starch hydrolysis is a well-known strategy to refill xylem vessels that suffered cavitation and it is characterized by a dense accumulation of starch grains in the xylem parenchima; SEM-EDX analysis of stem cross-sections of infected plants revealed an aggregation of starch grains in the Leccino xylem vessels. These observations could indicate that this cultivar, as well as being anatomically less susceptible to cavitation, it also could be able to activate more efficient refilling mechanisms, restoring vessel's hydraulic conductivity. In order to verify this hypothesis, we analysed the expression levels of some genes belonging to families involved in embolism sensing and refilling mechanisms: aquaporins, sucrose transporters, carbohydrate metabolism and enzymes related to starch breakdown, alpha and beta-amylase. The obtained genes expression patterns suggested that the infected plants of the cultivar Leccino strongly modulates the genes involved in embolism sensing and refilling.

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Organisms

  • Olea europaea
  • Xylella fastidiosa

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