Pathogen-induced hydraulic decline limiting photosynthesis and starch storage in grapevines (Vitis sp.)
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Xylella fastidiosa (Xf) is the bacterial pathogen responsible for Pierce's Disease (PD) in grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) and numerous diseases in agriculturally and ecologically important species. Current theory suggests that localized inoculations via insect feeding lead to bacterial spread through the xylem, reducing water transport capacity, leading to declines in productivity, and ultimately death. Yet, the underlying mechanisms of Xf-induced mortality are not fully understood. In this study, we documented the development of PD symptoms over 12-13 weeks postinoculation. Subsequently assessed photosynthetic capacity, starch storage, and stem hydraulics in four grapevine genotypes (two PD-resistant and two PD-susceptible), comparing those physiological changes to control plants. PD-susceptible genotypes showed a coordinated decline in photosynthesis, starch storage, and stem hydraulics, whereas Xf-inoculation led to no change in starch and stem hydraulics in the PD-resistant genotypes. Together these data support the idea of a link between loss of hydraulic conductivity due to tylosis production with a downstream photosynthetic decline and starch depletion in the PD-susceptible genotypes. Our data support the theory that hydraulic failure and carbon starvation underlie plant mortality resulting from PD.