Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris (Xcc) is a vascular pathogen of cruciferous plants that normally gains entry to plants via hydathodes. In order to study the basis of the preference for this protal of entry we have developed an Arabidopsis thaliana model with attached or detached leaves partially immersed in a bacterial suspension. Entry of bacteria into leaves, assessed by resistance to surface sterilization, could be detected after 1 h. Dissection of leaves and histochemical staining for beta-glucuronidase produced by the bacteria indicated that they were located in hydathodes. In contrast, similar experiments with the leaf-spotting pathogen X. campestris pv. armoraciae gave patterns of localized staining dispersed over the leaf area, indicative of entry through stomata. A survey of 41 A. thaliana accessions showed that they fell into three classes distinguishable by total numbers of Xcc that entered under standard conditions and by preference for hydathode colonization. Previously isolated Xcc mutants affected in pathogenicity were tested for hydathode colonization: an hrp mutant behaved indistinguishably from the wild type, and rpf regulatory mutants gave 10-fold reduced colonization, whereas with rfaX mutants with altered lipopolysaccharide, few if any viable bacteria were recoverable from hydathodes. This fact, together with the rapid induction of superoxide dismutase in the bacteria located in hydathodes, suggests that an early defense reaction is mounted in the hydathode.
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