Vascular Occlusions in Grapevines with Pierce's Disease Make Disease Symptom Development Worse
Vascular occlusions are common structural modifications made by many plant species in response to pathogen infection. However, the functional role(s) of occlusions in host plant disease resistance/susceptibility remains controversial. This study focuses on vascular occlusions that form in stem secondary xylem of grapevines (Vitis vinifera) infected with Pierce's disease (PD) and the impact of occlusions on the hosts' water transport and the systemic spread of the causal bacterium Xylella fastidiosa in infected vines. Tyloses are the predominant type of occlusion that forms in grapevine genotypes with differing PD resistances. Tyloses form throughout PD-susceptible grapevines with over 60% of the vessels in transverse sections of all examined internodes becoming fully blocked. By contrast, tylose development was mainly limited to a few internodes close to the point of inoculation in PD-resistant grapevines, impacting only 20% or less of the vessels. The extensive vessel blockage in PD-susceptible grapevines was correlated to a greater than 90% decrease in stem hydraulic conductivity, compared with an approximately 30% reduction in the stems of PD-resistant vines. Despite the systemic spread of X. fastidiosa in PD-susceptible grapevines, the pathogen colonized only 15% or less of the vessels in any internode and occurred in relatively small numbers, amounts much too small to directly block the vessels. Therefore, we concluded that the extensive formation of vascular occlusions in PD-susceptible grapevines does not prevent the pathogen's systemic spread in them, but may significantly suppress the vines' water conduction, contributing to PD symptom development and the vines' eventual death.