The Ecology of Agrobacterium vitis and Management of Crown Gall Disease in Vineyards
Agrobacterium vitis is the primary causal agent of grapevine crown gall worldwide. Symptoms of grapevine crown gall disease include tumor formation on the aerial plant parts, whereas both tumorigenic and nontumorigenic strains of A. vitis cause root necrosis. Genetic and genomic analyses indicated that A. vitis is distinguishable from the members of the Agrobacterium genus and its transfer to the genus Allorhizobium was suggested. A. vitis is genetically diverse, with respect to both chromosomal and plasmid DNA. Its pathogenicity is mainly determined by a large conjugal tumor-inducing (Ti) plasmid characterized by a mosaic structure with conserved and variable regions. Traditionally, A. vitis Ti plasmids and host strains were differentiated into octopine/cucumopine, nopaline, and vitopine groups, based on opine markers. However, tumorigenic and nontumorigenic strains of A. vitis may carry other ecologically important plasmids, such as tartrate- and opine-catabolic plasmids. A. vitis colonizes vines endophytically. It is also able to survive epiphytically on grapevine plants and is detected in soil exclusively in association with grapevine plants. Because A. vitis persists systemically in symptomless grapevine plants, it can be efficiently disseminated to distant geographical areas via international trade of propagation material. The use of healthy planting material in areas with no history of the crown gall represents the crucial measure of disease management. Moreover, biological control and production of resistant grape varieties are encouraging as future control measures.