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Microb Ecol. 2000 Jul;40(1):33-42. doi: 10.1007/s002480000012.

Plant-Microbe Interactions: Wetting of Ivy (Hedera helix L.) Leaf Surfaces in Relation to Colonization by Epiphytic Microorganisms.

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Julius-von-Sachs-Institut für Biowissenschaften, Lehrstuhl für Botanik II, Universität Würzburg, Julius-von-Sachs Platz 3, D-97082 Würzburg, Germany, DE.


Leaf wettability, cuticular wax composition, and microbial colonization of upper and lower leaf surfaces of ivy (Hedera helix L.) was investigated for young and old leaves sampled in June and September. Contact angles of aqueous buffered solutions measured on young leaf surfaces ranged between 76° and 86° and were not dependent on the pH value of the applied droplets. Contact angles measured on old leaf surfaces were up to 32°, significantly lower than on young leaf surfaces. Furthermore, contact angles were significantly lower using aqueous solutions of pH 9.0 compared to pH 3.0, indicating the influence of ionizable functional groups on leaf surface wetting properties. Observed changes in leaf wetting properties did not correlate with different levels of alkanoic acids in cuticular waxes. However, microscopic examination of the leaf surfaces indicated the influence of epiphytic microorganisms on wetting properties of old leaves, since their surfaces were always colonized by epiphytic microorganisms (filamentous fungi, yeasts, and bacteria), whereas surfaces of young leaves were basically clean. In order to analyze the effect of epiphytic microorganisms on leaf surface wetting, surfaces of young and clean ivy leaves were artificially colonized with Pseudomonas fluorescens. This resulted in a significant increase and a pH dependence of leaf surface wetting in the same way as it was observed on old ivy leaf surfaces. From these results it can be deduced that the native wetting properties of leaf surfaces can be significantly masked by the presence of epiphytic microorganisms. The ecological implications of altered wetting properties for microorganisms using the leaf/atmosphere interface as habitat are discussed.


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