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Further insights into the components of resistance to Ophiostoma novo-ulmi in Ulmus minor: hydraulic conductance, stomatal sensitivity and bark dehydration

Pita, Pilar, Rodríguez-Calcerrada, Jesús, Medel, David, Gil, Luis
Tree physiology 2018 v.38 no.2 pp. 252-262
Dutch elm disease, Ophiostoma novo-ulmi, Ulmus hollandica, Ulmus minor, air, bark, capacitance, clones, genotype, greenhouses, leaf area, leaves, pathogens, sap flow, stem elongation, stomatal conductance, tree physiology, vapor pressure deficit, water content, water shortages, water stress, wilting, xylem, xylem water potential
Dutch elm disease (DED) is a vascular disease that has killed over 1 billion elm trees. The pathogen spreads throughout the xylem network triggering vessel blockage, which results in water stress, tissue dehydration and extensive leaf wilting in susceptible genotypes. We investigated the differences between four Ulmus minor Mill. clones of contrasting susceptibility to Ophiostoma novo-ulmi Brasier regarding morphological, anatomical and physiological traits affecting water transport, in order to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying DED susceptibility. We analyzed the differential response to water shortage and increased air vapor pressure deficit (VPD) to investigate whether resistance to water stress might be related to DED tolerance. Sixteen plants per clone, aged 2 years, were grown inside a greenhouse under differential watering. Stomatal conductance was measured under ambient and increased VPD. Growth, bark water content and stem hydraulic and anatomical parameters were measured 22 days after starting differential watering. Vessel lumen area, lumen fraction and hydraulic conductance were highest in susceptible clones. Stomatal conductance was lowest under low VPD and decreased faster under increased VPD in resistant clones. We found a negative relationship between the decrease in stomatal conductance at increased VPD and specific hydraulic conductance, revealing a narrower hydraulic margin for sustaining transpiration in resistant clones. The effect of water shortage was greater on radial stem growth than on leaf area, which could be explained through an extensive use of capacitance water to buffer xylem water potential. Water shortage reduced stomatal conductance and vessel lumen area. Bark water content under conditions of water shortage only decreased in susceptible clones. Higher hydraulic constraints to sap flow in resistant clones may determine higher stomatal sensitivity to VPD and so contribute to DED resistance by limiting pathogen expansion and reducing water loss and metabolic impairment in cells involved in fighting against infection.