Microbiological Examination of Erwinia amylovora Exopolysaccharide Ooze

Phytopathology. 2017 Apr;107(4):403-411. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-09-16-0352-R. Epub 2017 Feb 28.


Fire blight, caused by the pathogen Erwinia amylovora, is the most devastating bacterial disease of pome fruit in North America and worldwide. The primary method of dispersal for E. amylovora is through ooze, a mass of exopolysaccharides and bacterial cells that is exuded as droplets from infected host tissue. During the 2013 and 2014 field seasons, 317 ooze droplets were collected from field-inoculated apple trees. Populations of E. amylovora in ooze droplets were 108 CFU/μl on average. Ooze droplets harboring larger (>108 CFU/μl) cell populations were typically smaller in total volume and had darker coloring, such as orange, red, or dark red hues. Examination of apple host tissue at the site of emergence of ooze droplets using scanning electron microscopy revealed that ooze was not exuding through natural openings; instead, it was found on erumpent mounds and small (10-μm) tears in tissue. These observations suggested that E. amylovora-induced wounds in tissue provided the exit holes for ooze extrusion from the host. Analyses of E. amylovora populations in ooze droplets and within the stems from which ooze droplets emerged indicated that approximately 9% of the total bacterial population from infected stems is diverted to ooze. Gene expression analyses indicated that E. amylovora cells in stem sections located above ooze droplets and in ooze droplets were actively expressing critical pathogenicity genes such as hrpL, dspE, and amsK. Thus, our study identified ooze as a source of large, concentrated populations of E. amylovora that emerged from the host by rupturing host tissue. Because the cells in ooze droplets are expressing genes required for pathogenesis, they are already primed for infection should they be dispersed from ooze to new infection courts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Erwinia amylovora / genetics
  • Erwinia amylovora / isolation & purification*
  • Erwinia amylovora / metabolism
  • Erwinia amylovora / pathogenicity
  • Flowers / microbiology
  • Fruit / microbiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Bacterial
  • Malus / microbiology*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Plant Stems / microbiology
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / ultrastructure
  • Virulence


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial