Colonization and movement of green fluorescent protein-labeled clavibacter nebraskensis in maize

Alexander Mullens, Tiffany Jamann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clavibacter nebraskensis 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 C. nebraskensis during infection were examined using green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled bacterial strains. We successfully introduced a plasmid to C. nebraskensis 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 C. nebraskensis 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
Issue number5
Early online dateNov 15 2020
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Cereals
  • Cultivar/resistance
  • Disease management
  • Field crops
  • Grains
  • Prokaryotes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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