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Colonization and Movement of GFP-Labeled Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis During Tomato Infection

January 2012 , Volume 102 , Number  1
Pages  23 - 31

L. Chalupowicz, E.-M. Zellermann, M. Fluegel, O. Dror, R. Eichenlaub, K.-H. Gartemann, A. Savidor, G. Sessa, N. Iraki, I. Barash, and S. Manulis-Sasson

First, fourth, and eleventh authors: Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Research, ARO, the Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, Israel; second, third, fifth, and sixth authors: Department of Microbiology/Genetechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany; seventh, eighth, and tenth authors: Department of Molecular Biology and Ecology of Plants, Faculty of life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel; and ninth author: UNESCO Biotechnology Center, Bethlehem University, Bethlehem, Palestinian Authority.

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Accepted for publication 18 August 2011.

The vascular pathogen Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis is responsible for bacterial wilt and canker of tomato. Pathogenicity of this bacterium is dependent on plasmid-borne virulence factors and serine proteases located on the chromosomal chp/tomA pathogenicity island (PAI). In this study, colonization patterns and movement of C. michiganensis subsp. michiganensis during tomato infection was examined using a green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled strain. A plasmid expressing GFP in C. michiganensis subsp. michiganensis was constructed and found to be stable in planta for at least 1 month. Confocal laser-scanning microscopy (CLSM) of inoculated stems showed that the pathogen extensively colonizes the lumen of xylem vessels and preferentially attaches to spiral secondary wall thickening of the protoxylem. Acropetal movement of the wild-type strain C. michiganensis subsp. michiganensis NCPPB382 (Cmm382) in tomato resulted in an extensive systemic colonization of the whole plant reaching the apical region after 15 days, whereas Cmm100 (lacking the plasmids pCM1 and pCM2) or Cmm27 (lacking the chp/tomA PAI) remained confined to the area surrounding of the inoculation site. Cmm382 formed biofilm-like structures composed of large bacterial aggregates on the interior of xylem walls as observed by CLSM and scanning electron microscopy. These findings suggest that virulence factors located on the chp/tomA PAI or the plasmids are required for effective movement of the pathogen in tomato and for the formation of cellular aggregates.

© 2012 The American Phytopathological Society