UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The Significance of Xylem Structure and Its Chemical Components in Certain Olive Tree Genotypes with Tolerance to Xylella fastidiosa Infection Sabella, Erika; Buja, Ilaria; Negro, Carmine; Vergine, Marzia; Cherubini, Paolo; Pavan, Stefano; Maruccio, Giuseppe; De Bellis, Luigi; Luvisi, Andrea


Olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS) is a devastating plant disease caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Xf). Exploratory missions in the Salento area led to the identification of putatively Xf-resistant olive trees (putatively resistant plants, PRPs) which were pauci-symptomatic or asymptomatic infected plants belonging to different genetic clusters in orchards severely affected by OQDS. To investigate the defense strategies employed by these PRPs to contrast Xf infection, the PRPs were analyzed for the anatomy and histology of xylem vessels, patterns of Xf distribution in host tissues (by the fluorescent in situ hybridization technique—FISH) and the presence of secondary metabolites in stems. The xylem vessels of the PRPs have an average diameter significantly lower than that of susceptible plants for each annual tree ring studied. The histochemical staining of xylem vessels highlighted an increase in the lignin in the parenchyma cells of the medullary rays of the wood. The 3D images obtained from FISH-LSM (laser scanning microscope) revealed that, in the PRPs, Xf cells mostly appeared as individual cells or as small aggregates; in addition, these bacterial cells looked to be incorporated in the autofluorescence signal of gels and phenolic compounds regardless of hosts’ genotypes. In fact, the metabolomic data from asymptomatic PRP stems showed a significant increase in compounds like salicylic acid, known as a signal molecule which mediates host responses upon pathogen infection, and luteolin, a naturally derived flavonoid compound with antibacterial properties and with well-known anti-biofilm effects. Findings indicate that the xylem vessel geometry together with structural and chemical defenses are among the mechanisms operating to control Xf infection and may represent a common resistance trait among different olive genotypes.

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