Embryo Localization Enhances the Survival of Acidovorax citrulli in Watermelon Seeds.Phytopathology. 2016 Apr; 106(4):330-8.P
Acidovorax citrulli, the causal agent of bacterial fruit blotch (BFB) of cucurbits has been observed to survive for >34 years in stored melon and watermelon seeds. To better understand this remarkable longevity, we investigated the bacterium's tolerance to desiccation and the effect of bacterial localization in different watermelon seed tissues on its survival. We compared the ability of A. citrulli to tolerate desiccation on filter paper discs and on host (watermelon) and nonhost (cabbage, corn and tomato) seeds to two seedborne (Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris and Pantoea stewartii subsp. stewartii) and one soilborne (Ralstonia solanacearum) plant-pathogenic bacteria. A. citrulli survival on dry filter paper (>12 weeks) was similar to that of X. campestris pv. campestris but longer than P. stewartii subsp. stewartii. Ralstonia solanacearum survived longer than all other bacteria tested. On all seeds tested, A. citrulli and X. campestris pv. campestris populations declined by 5 orders of magnitude after 12 weeks of incubation at 4°C and 50% relative humidity, while R. solanacearum populations declined by 3 orders. P. stewartii subsp. stewartii was not recovered after 12 weeks of incubation. To determine the effect of tissue localization on bacterial survival, watermelon seeds infested with A. citrulli by flower stigma inoculation (resulting in bacterial localization in the embryo/endosperm) or by ovary pericarp inoculations (resulting in bacterial localization under the testa) were treated with peroxyacetic acid or chlorine (Cl2) gas. Following these treatments, a significantly higher reduction in BFB seed-to-seedling transmission was observed for seeds generated by ovary pericarp inoculation (≥89.5%) than for those generated by stigma inoculation (≤76.5%) (P<0.05). Additionally, higher populations of A. citrulli survived when the bacteria were localized to the embryo/endosperm versus the seed coat, suggesting that tissue localization is important for bacterial survival in seed. This observation was confirmed when P. stewartii subsp. stewartii survived significantly longer in stigma-inoculated (embryo/endosperm-localized) watermelon seeds than in vacuum-infiltrated (testa-localized) seeds. Based on these results we conclude that A. citrulli cells are not intrinsically tolerant to desiccation and that localization of the bacterium to testa tissues does not enhance A. citrulli survival. In contrast, it is likely that embryo/endosperm localization enhances the survival of A. citrulli and other bacteria in seeds.