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Gall formation by Erwinia species on Douglas-fir DeYoung, Robyn Merrilee


Bacterial galls on Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii [Mirb.] Franco), collected from the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the Greater Vancouver area and the Hope region of British Columbia, were generally globose in shape with rough, irregular surfaces and measured between 0.5 and 2.0 cm in diameter. The galls were generally located on the tips of branches or twigs of 10- to 20-year old Douglas-fir trees. The bacterial gall disease appeared to affect few Douglas-fir trees in the collection areas and bacterial galls were not found on any other coniferous species. Furthermore, there have been no reports of serious damage to natural forests in British Columbia due to bacterial gall disease. Young, greenhouse-grown Douglas-fir seedlings occasionally died if the tip of the main stem was artificially inoculated. Often new growing tips would be produced affecting the growth form of the seedlings. Two types of gall-forming Erwinia spp. were isolated from Douglas-fir galls. Typical isolates, tentatively identified by fatty acid analysis as Erwinia salicis, produced galls which were rough and irregular in shape composed of multiple outgrowths marked by a single or cross-shaped fissure. The atypical isolate, tentatively identified by fatty acid analysis as Erwinia herbicola subsp. herbicola, produced galls which were smooth and generally round in shape with the surface cracking as the gall expanded. Colonies of the typical isolates grown on casein-peptone-glucose media were characteristically round, slightly domed with somewhat concentric ridging observed near the margins of the colonies. Three to 4 day old colonies of the atypical isolates grown on casein-peptone-glucose media were characteristically round and concave while older colonies produced an extracellular slime and were more irregular in shape. In Luria Broth, the typical isolates grew at temperatures of up to 32°C while the atypical isolate grew at temperatures of up 34°C. The typical isolate was resistant to a wider range of antibiotics than the atypical isolate. Polyclonal antisera were produced against glutaraldehyde-fixed whole cells of both the typical T-2789 and atypical A-0181 gall-forming Erwinia isolates. The purified antisera were isolate specific as tested by immunodiffusion and an indirect ELISA against several different phytopathogenic bacteria including Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae, Erwinia herbicola subsp. herbicola, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Rhizobium leguminosarum and Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora. Plasmid profiles of the typical Erwinia isolates contained one band while the atypical isolate characteristically contained 4 to 5 bands which appeared to be different forms of at least one plasmid. Restriction digests of the typical isolates suggested a size of approximately 50 kb while complex digestion profiles were obtained for the atypical isolates because of the difficulty in isolating individual plasmid types. From visual estimates against Hindlll-digested lambda DNA, a size of between 10 and 20 kb was suggested for the fastest moving plasmid band of the atypical isolate. No homology was observed between the different plasmid types characteristic of the two isolates. The role of the plasmid DNA of the atypical isolate in pathogenesis was not determined because curing of the plasmid(s) was not successful using high temperature treatments plus chemical curing agents. Heat treatment experiments, in which the pathogen was selectively killed at various times after inoculation, demonstrated that the bacteria are required to be present for gall induction and continued development of the gall for both of the gall-forming Erwinia isolate types. Pathogenicity of the isolated bacteria was tested on 14 conifer species, other than Douglas-fir, including Abies, Chamaecyparis, Pinus and Thuja spp. The typical isolates were weakly pathogenic on Abies, Larix and Picea spp. The atypical isolate was weakly pathogenic on Abies, Chamaecyparis, Larix, Picea and Pinus spp. Due to the limited damage caused on the conifers tested and to their infrequent occurrence, these gall-forming pathogens do not appear to be of economic importance to the forestry industry.

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