Successful infection of the plant pathogenic bacterium Xylella fastidiosa (Wells) from an infected plant to a new host involves three main steps: 1) acquisition of the bacterium by a vector; 2) inoculation of a noninfected host plant by the vector; and 3) establishment of sufficient titers of X. fastidiosa in the host plant to sustain a chronic infection. Understanding the basic biology of the transmission process is a key to limiting the spread of plant diseases induced by X. fasdidiosa and reducing agricultural losses, especially those experienced in California since the introduction of a new vector, Homalodisca vitripennis (Germar) (Hemiptera, Cicadellidae) (formerly H. coagulata Say), the glassy-winged sharpshooter. In this study, H. vitripennis adults that acquired X. fastidiosa were allowed access to chrysanthemum plant cuttings for 30, 60, 90, or 120 min. The numbers of X. fastidiosa acquired (i.e., cells present in the insect foregut) and the number inoculated to the plant cuttings were separately determined using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In addition, the number of times glassy-winged sharpshooter stylets probed plant cuttings and the amount of time glassy-winged sharpshooter spent actively ingesting were monitored using video surveillance. Linear regression did not indicate a relationship between the number of X. fastidiosa cells inoculated into the plant cutting and either the titer of pathogen present in the insect or amount of time spent ingesting per probe. However, the number of probes significantly influenced the number of X. fastidiosa cells inoculated. Due to the highly variable nature of transmission, our model could not account for all observed variation as indicated by low R2 values. However, our results suggest that the mechanism of transmission is dependent on probing behaviors more than ingestion duration.
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Vol. 101 • No. 4