First and third authors: Department of Microbiology, University of Georgia, Athens 30602-2065; and second and third authors: Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia, Athens 30603-7274
One susceptible and two resistant cultivars of tomato were tested for differences in infection by Ralstonia solanacearum and for the subsequent multiplication, colonization, and production of the wilt-inducing virulence factor, exopolysaccharide I (EPS I). Bacterial ingress into the taproot was fastest in the susceptible cv. Marion, followed by the resistant cvs. L285 (fivefold slower) and Hawaii 7996 (15-fold slower). Once inside the taproot, R. solanacearum colonized, to some extent, almost all regions of the resistant and susceptible plants. However, colonization occurred sooner in the susceptible than in the resistant cultivars, as measured by viablecell counts of bacteria in the midstems. Rates of multiplication and maximum bacterial cell densities were also greater in the susceptible than in the resistant cultivars. Growth experiments utilizing xylem fluid from infected and uninfected plants indicated that neither antimicrobial activities nor reduced levels of growth-supporting nutrients in the xylem fluids were responsible for the reduced bacterial multiplication in the resistant cultivars. Quantification of EPS I in the infected plants, using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, revealed that the bacterial populations in the susceptible cultivar produced greater amounts of EPS I per plant than those in the resistant cultivars. Immunofluorescence microscopy using antibodies against either EPS I or R. solanacearum cells revealed that bacteria and EPS I were distributed throughout the vascular bundles and intercellular spaces of the pith in the susceptible cultivar, whereas in the resistant cultivars, bacteria and EPS I were restricted to the vascular tissues.