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Open Access Research article

Phenotypic and histochemical traits of the interaction between Plasmopara viticola and resistant or susceptible grapevine varieties

Silvia Laura Toffolatti*, Giovanni Venturini, Dario Maffi and Annamaria Vercesi

Author Affiliations

Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie e Ambientali - Produzione, Territorio, Agroenergia (DiSAA), Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 2, 20133, Milan, Italy

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BMC Plant Biology 2012, 12:124  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-124

Published: 1 August 2012



Grapevine downy mildew, caused by Plasmopara viticola, is a very serious disease affecting mainly Vitis vinifera cultivated varieties around the world. Breeding for resistance through the crossing with less susceptible species is one of the possible means to reduce the disease incidence and the application of fungicides. The hybrid Bianca and some of its siblings are considered very promising but their resistance level can vary depending on the pathogen strain. Moreover, virulent strains characterized by high fitness can represent a potential threat to the hybrid cultivation.


The host response and the pathogen virulence were quantitatively assessed by artificially inoculating cv Chardonnay, cv Bianca and their siblings with P. viticola isolates derived from single germinating oospores collected in various Italian viticultural areas. The host phenotypes were classified as susceptible, intermediate and resistant, according to the Area Under the Disease Progress Curve caused by the inoculated strain. Host responses in cv Bianca and its siblings significantly varied depending on the P. viticola isolates, which in turn differed in their virulence levels. The fitness of the most virulent strain did not significantly vary on the different hybrids including Bianca in comparison with the susceptible cv Chardonnay, suggesting that no costs are associated with virulence. Among the individual fitness components, only sporangia production was significantly reduced in cv Bianca and in some hybrids. Comparative histological analysis revealed differences between susceptible and resistant plants in the pathogen diffusion and cytology from 48 h after inoculation onwards. Defence mechanisms included callose depositions in the infected stomata, increase in peroxidase activity, synthesis of phenolic compounds and flavonoids and the necrosis of stomata and cells immediately surrounding the point of invasion and determined alterations in the size of the infected areas and in the number of sporangia differentiated.


Some hybrids were able to maintain an intermediate-resistant behaviour even when inoculated with the most virulent strain. Such hybrids should be considered for further field trials.

Disease resistance; Oomycetes; Pathogen fitness