Photosynthetic responses of a temperate liana to Xylella fastidiosa infection and water stress
Xylella fastidiosa is a xylem-limited bacterial plant pathogen that causes bacterial leaf scorch in its hosts. Our previous work showed that water stress enhances leaf scorch symptom severity and progression along the stem of a liana, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, infected by X. fastidiosa. This paper explores the photosynthetic gas exchange responses of P. quinquefolia, with the aim to elucidate mechanisms behind disease expression and its interaction with water stress. We used a 2 x 2-complete factorial design, repeated over two growing seasons, with high and low soil moisture levels and infected and non-infected plants. In both years, low soil moisture levels reduced leaf water potentials, net photosynthesis and stomatal conductance at all leaf positions, while X. fastidiosa-infection reduced these parameters at basally located leaves only. Intercellular CO2 concentrations were reduced in apical leaves, but increased at the most basal leaf location, implicating a non-stomatal reduction of photosynthesis in leaves showing the greatest disease development. This result was supported by measured reductions in photosynthetic rates of basal leaves at high CO2 concentrations, where stomatal limitation was eliminated. Repeated measurements over the summer of 2000 showed that the effects of water stress and infection were progressive over time, reaching their greatest extent in September. By reducing stomatal conductances at moderate levels of water stress, P. quinquefolia maintained relatively high leaf water potentials and delayed the onset of photosynthetic damage due to pathogen and drought-induced water stress. In addition, chlorophyll fluorescence measurements showed that P. quinquefolia has an efficient means of dissipating excess light energy that protects the photosynthetic machinery of leaves from irreversible photoinhibitory damage that may occur during stress-induced stomatal limitation of photosynthesis. However, severe stress induced by disease and drought eventually led to non-stomatal decreases in photosynthesis associated with leaf senescence.