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Deciphering the route of Ralstonia solanacearum colonization in Arabidopsis thaliana roots during a compatible interaction: focus at the plant cell wall


The compatible interaction between the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, and the GMI1000 strain of the phytopathogenic bacterium, Ralstonia solanacearum, was investigated in an in vitro pathosystem. We describe the progression of the bacteria in the root from penetration at the root surface to the xylem vessels and the cell type-specific, cell wall-associated modifications that accompanies bacterial colonization. Within 6 days post inoculation, R. solanacearum provoked a rapid plasmolysis of the epidermal, cortical, and endodermal cells, including those not directly in contact with the bacteria. Plasmolysis was accompanied by a global degradation of pectic homogalacturonanes as shown by the loss of JIM7 and JIM5 antibody signal in the cell wall of these cell types. As indicated by immunolabeling with Rsol-I antibodies that specifically recognize R. solanacearum, the bacteria progresses through the root in a highly directed, centripetal manner to the xylem poles, without extensive multiplication in the intercellular spaces along its path. Entry into the vascular cylinder was facilitated by cell collapse of the two pericycle cells located at the xylem poles. Once the bacteria reached the xylem vessels, they multiplied abundantly and moved from vessel to vessel by digesting the pit membrane between adjacent vessels. The degradation of the secondary walls of xylem vessels was not a prerequisite for vessel colonization as LM10 antibodies strongly labeled xylem cell walls, even at very late stages in disease development. Finally, the capacity of R. solanacearum to specifically degrade certain cell wall components and not others could be correlated with the arsenal of cell wall hydrolytic enzymes identified in the bacterial genome.

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Days post-inoculation




Pectate lyase




Pectin lyase


Pectin methylesterase


Transmission electron microscopy


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The authors would like to thank Stéphane Genin and Alice Guidot (LIPM, Toulouse, France) for helpful discussions, and Françoise Poliakoff, Corrine Audusseau and Carène Rivoal (ANSES-Laboratoire de la Santé des Végétaux, Angers, France) for the generous gift of Rsol-I antibody. This work was funded by the French National Agency for Research (WALLTALK: ANR-07-GPLA-014).

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Correspondence to Deborah Goffner.

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C. Digonnet and Y. Martinez contributed equally to this work.

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Digonnet, C., Martinez, Y., Denancé, N. et al. Deciphering the route of Ralstonia solanacearum colonization in Arabidopsis thaliana roots during a compatible interaction: focus at the plant cell wall. Planta 236, 1419–1431 (2012).

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  • Arabidopsis
  • Cell wall
  • Cytology
  • Plant–pathogen interaction
  • Ralstonia
  • Root