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Effect of Leaf Surface Waxes on Leaf Colonization by Pantoea agglomerans and Clavibacter michiganensis

December 2002 , Volume 15 , Number  12
Pages  1,236 - 1,244

Lise M. Marcell and Gwyn A. Beattie

Iowa State University, Department of Plant Pathology, Ames 50011-3211, U.S.A.

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Accepted August 13 2002.

To evaluate the influence of leaf cuticular waxes on bacterial colonization of leaves, bacterial colonization patterns were examined on four glossy maize (Zea mays L.) mutants that were altered in their cuticular wax biosynthesis. Mutant gl3 was indistinguishable from the wild-type maize in its ability to foster colonization by the two bacterial species, Pantoea agglomerans and Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. nebraskensis. In contrast, the other three mutants supported the development of populations that significantly differed in size from those on the wild type. Mutant gl5 gl20 supported smaller populations of P. agglomerans, but not C. michiganensis, while mutant gl1 supported larger populations of C. michiganensis but not P. agglomerans. Mutant gl4 supported larger populations of both bacterial species. The exceptional ability of mutant gl4 to support bacterial colonization was hypothesized to result from the lower density of the crystalline waxes on gl4 than on the wild type, because a reduced crystal density could promote capillary water movement and water trapping among the wax crystals. This hypothesis was supported by the demonstration that the mechanical introduction of gaps among the wax crystals of the wild-type leaves resulted in the establishment of larger P. agglomerans populations on the altered leaves. These results provide the first direct evidence that leaf surface waxes affect bacterial leaf colonization at various stages of colonization and in a bacterial species-dependent manner.

Additional keywords: cuticle , glossy mutant , hydrophobicity , phyllosphere , wettability .

© 2002 The American Phytopathological Society