This study was aimed at generating microscopic evidence of intra-tissue colonization in banana in support of the previous findings on widespread association of endophytic bacteria with the shoot tips of fieldgrown plants and micropropagated cultures, and to understand the extent of tissue colonization. Leaf-sheath tissue sections (50-100 mm) from aseptically gathered shoot tips of cv. Grand Naine were treated with Live/ Dead bacterial viability kit components SYTO 9 (S9) and propidium iodide (PI) followed by epifluorescence or confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). The S9, which targets live bacteria, showed abundant green-fluorescing particles along the host cell periphery in CLSM, apparently in between the plasma membrane and the cell wall. These included non-motile and occasional actively motile single bacterial cells seen in different x-y planes and z-stacks over several cell layers, with the fluorescence signal similar to that of pure cultures of banana endophytes. Propidium iodide, which stains dead bacteria, did not detect any, but post-ethanol treatment, both PI and 4?,6-diamidino-2- phenylindole detected abundant bacteria. Propidium iodide showed clear nuclear staining, as did S9 to some extent, and the fluorophores appeared to detect bacteria at the exclusion of DNA-containing plant organelles as gathered from bright-field and phase-contrast microscopy. The S9-PI staining did not work satisfactorily with formalin- or paraformaldehyde-fixed tissue. The extensive bacterial colonization in fresh tissue was further confirmed with the suckers of different cultivars, and was supported by transmission electron microscopy. This study thus provides clear microscopic evidence of the extensive endophytic bacterial inhabitation in the confined cell wall-plasma membrane peri-space in shoot tissue of banana with the organisms sharing an integral association with the host. The abundant tissue colonization suggests a possible involvement of endophytes in the biology of the host besides recognizing cell wall-plasma membrane peri-space as a major niche for plant-associated bacteria. © The Authors 2013.
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