Plant defense factors involved in Olea europaea resistance against Xylella fastidiosa infection

  • Silvia Novelli
  • Angelo Gismondi
  • Gabriele Di Marco
  • Lorena Canuti
  • Valentina Nanni
  • Antonella CaniniEmail author
Regular Paper


Olive quick decline syndrome (OQDS) is a dangerous plant disease, caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which targets olive (Olea europaea). Since field observations suggested that some olive cultivars (i.e. Leccino) were more resistant to OQDS than others (i.e. Cellina di Nardò), the plant defense strategies adopted by olive to contrast X. fastidiosa infection were investigated. In the present study, ELISA and genetic approaches were used to confirm plant infection, while microbial colonization mechanism and distribution in host plant tissues and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels were examined by light, scanning electron and confocal microscopy analyses. Spectrophotometric and chromatographic techniques were performed to measure secondary metabolites content and qPCR assay was carried out for monitoring plant gene expression variation. Our analysis showed that X. fastidiosa caused accumulation of ROS in Leccino samples compared to Cellina di Nardò. Moreover, the infection induced the up-regulation of defense-related genes, such as NADPH oxidase, some protein kinases, pathogen plant response factors and metabolic enzymes. We also found that Leccino plants enhanced the production of specific antioxidant and antimicrobial molecules, to fight the pathogen and avoid its spreading into xylem vessels. We provided new information on OQDS resistance mechanism applied by Leccino cultivar. In particular, we evidenced that high concentrations of ROS, switching on plant defence signalling pathways, may represent a key factor in fighting X. fastidiosa infection.


Olive quick decline syndrome Olive tree Plant defense Reactive oxygen species Secondary metabolites Xylella fastidiosa 



Healthy Cellina di Nardò


Healthy Leccino


Infected Cellina di Nardò


Infected Leccino


Reactive oxygen species


Olive quick decline syndrome



The authors thank Dr. Daniele Giaffreda for his work as intermediary with Agricultural Farms, the Agricultural Farm of Ing. Niccolò Coppola-srl-S.S. 101, Km 34.5-Tenuta di Torre Sabea 73014 Gallipoli (LE) and the Agricultural Farm of Cosimo Tornesello-Contrada Monaci Gallipoli-73048 (LE) which kindly provided olive samples, the Advanced Microscopies Center (AMC) of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Biology Department, Dr. Elena Romano for her technical expertise in confocal microscopy analysis and Dr. Francesco Basoli for his contribution in SEM analysis A deep gratitude to “Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali, ex. DG Sviluppo Rurale, ex. DISR V-Produzioni vegetali”, “Regione Puglia-Area Politiche per lo Sviluppo Rurale, Servizio Agricoltura, Ufficio Osservatorio Fitosanitario” and “Regione Lazio-Direzione Regionale Agricoltura, Servizio Fitosanitario Regionale, Innovazione in Agricoltura” for authorisation to collect samples and work on this topic (DG DISR-DISR 05-Prot. Uscita N. 0023466 del 03/10/2016).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (pdf 825 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Rome “Tor Vergata”RomeItaly

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