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Keywords:

  • chlorophyll;
  • disease resistance;
  • lignin;
  • phenolic compounds;
  • pine wilt disease;
  • Pinus pinaster

Pine wilt disease (PWD), recently introduced into Europe, is caused by the pine wood nematode (PWN) Bursaphelenchus xylophilus and is a devastating illness that affects mainly pine trees. It is known that the PWN is capable of infecting other conifers; however, there is currently no information on which other plant species may be susceptible to PWD. In this study, the potential susceptibility of two common species of European forests, Picea abies and Cupressus lusitanica, to PWN was assessed through the monitoring of visual external symptoms, dimension and localization of the nematode population in stems, quantification of total chlorophyll, total soluble phenolics and lignin, at 7, 14, 21 and 28 days after inoculation. The degree of susceptibility was established through the comparison of symptoms with Pinus pinaster, a well-known PWN host. Furthermore, the stem ultrastructure of P. abies, C. lusitanica and Pn. pinaster was analysed by scanning electron microscopy. The results suggest that P. abies and C. lusitanica are resistant to PWN, and that lignin biosynthesis in these species is affected at an early stage of the infestation. Nevertheless, P. abies seems to be a compatible host that could act as a repository for PWN.