Salivary enzymes are injected into xylem by the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a vector of Xylella fastidiosa

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A few phytophagous hemipteran species such as the glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca vitripennis, (Germar), subsist entirely on xylem fluid. Although poorly understood, aspects of the insect's salivary physiology may facilitate both xylem-feeding and transmission of plant pathogens. Xylella fastidiosa is a xylem-limited bacterium that causes Pierce's disease of grape and other scorch diseases in many important crops. X. fastidiosa colonizes the anterior foregut (precibarium and cibarium) of H. vitripennis and other xylem-feeding vectors. Bacteria form a dense biofilm anchored in part by an exopolysaccharide (EPS) matrix that is reported to have a beta-1,4-glucan backbone. Recently published evidence supports the following, salivation-egestion hypothesis for the inoculation of X. fastidiosa during vector feeding. The insect secretes saliva into the plant and then rapidly takes up a mixture of saliva and plant constituents. During turbulent fluid movements in the precibarium, the bacteria may become mechanically and enzymatically dislodged: the mixture is then egested back out through the stylets into plant cells, possibly including xylem vessels. The present study found that proteins extracted from dissected H. vitripennis salivary glands contain several enzyme activities capable of hydrolyzing glycosidic linkages in polysaccharides such as those found in EPS and plant cell walls, based on current information about the structures of those polysaccharides. One of these enzymes, a beta-1,4-endoglucanase (EGase) was enriched in the salivary gland protein extract by subjecting the extract to a few, simple purification steps. The EGase-enriched extract was then used to generate a polyclonal antiserum that was used for immunohistochemical imaging of enzymes in sharpshooter salivary sheaths in grape. Results showed that enzyme-containing gelling saliva is injected into xylem vessels during sharpshooter feeding, in one case being carried by the transpiration stream away from the injection site. Thus, the present study provides support for the salivation-egestion hypothesis. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


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  • Xylella fastidiosa