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Colonization Patterns of an mCherry-Tagged Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense Strain in Potato Plants

December 2013 , Volume 103 , Number  12
Pages  1,268 - 1,279

Gugulethu C. Kubheka, Teresa A. Coutinho, Ntsane Moleleki, and Lucy N. Moleleki

First, second, and fourth authors: Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, Forestry Agriculture and Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria, Lunnon Road, Pretoria, South Africa; and third author: National Advisory Council on Innovation, Private Bag, X894, Pretoria, South Africa.

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Accepted for publication 29 May 2013.

Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. brasiliense is a newly identified member of the potato soft rot enterobacteriaceae. The pathogenesis of this pathogen is still poorly understood. In this study, an mCherry-P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense-tagged strain was generated to study P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense—potato plant interactions. Prior to use, the tagged strain was evaluated for in vitro growth, plasmid stability, and virulence on potato tubers and shown to be similar to the wild type. Four potato cultivars were evaluated for stem-based resistance against P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense. Confocal laser-scanning microscopy and in vitro viable cell counts showed that P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense is able to penetrate roots of a susceptible potato cultivar as early as 12 h postinoculation and migrate upward into aerial stem parts. Due to the phenotypic differences observed between tolerant and susceptible cultivars, a comparison of P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense colonization patterns in these cultivars was undertaken. In the susceptible cultivar, P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense cells colonized the xylem tissue, forming “biofilm-like” aggregates that led to occlusion of some of the vessels. In contrast, in the tolerant cultivar, P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense appeared as free-swimming planktonic cells with no specific tissue localization. This suggests that there are resistance mechanisms in the tolerant cultivar that limit aggregation of P. carotovorum subsp. brasiliense in planta and, hence, the lack of symptom development in this cultivar.

Additional keyword: Dickeya.

© 2013 The American Phytopathological Society