Colonization and movement of GFP-labeled Clavibacter nebraskensis in maize

Alexander Mullens, Tiffany Jamann

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Clavibacter nebraskensis (Cn) causes Goss's bacterial wilt and leaf blight, a major disease of maize. Infected crop residue is the primary inoculum source and infection can occur via wounds or natural openings, such as stomata or hydathodes. The use of resistant hybrids is the primary control method for Goss's wilt. In this study, colonization and movement patterns of Cn during infection were examined using green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled bacterial strains. We successfully introduced a plasmid to Cn via electroporation, which resulted in GFP accumulation. Fluorescence microscopy revealed that in the absence of wounding, bacteria colonize leaf tissue via entry through the hydathodes when guttation droplets are present. Stomatal penetration was not observed under natural conditions. Bacteria initially colonize the xylem and subsequently the mesophyll, which creates the freckles that are characteristic of the disease. Bacteria infiltrated into the mesophyll did not cause disease symptoms, could not enter the vasculature, and did not spread from the initial inoculation point. Bacteria were observed exuding through stomata onto the leaf surface, resulting in the characteristic sheen of diseased leaves. Resistant maize lines exhibited decreased bacterial spread in the vasculature and the mesophyll. These tools to examine Cn movement offer opportunities and new insights into the pathogenesis process and can form the basis for improved Goss's wilt management through host resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPlant disease
StateE-pub ahead of print - Nov 15 2020

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