The active oxygen species hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) was detected cytochemically by its reaction with cerium chloride to produce electron-dense deposits of cerium perhydroxides. In uninoculated lettuce leaves, H2O2 was typically present within the secondary thickened walls of xylem vessels. Inoculation with wild-type cells of Pseudomonas syringae pv phaseolicola caused a rapid hypersensitive reaction (HR) during which highly localized accumulation of H2O2 was found in plant cell walls adjacent to attached bacteria. Quantitative analysis indicated a prolonged burst of H2O2 occurring between 5 to 8 hr after inoculation in cells undergoing the HR during this example of non-host resistance. Cell wall alterations and papilla deposition, which occurred in response to both the wild-type strain and a nonpathogenic hrpD mutant, were not associated with intense staining for H2O2, unless the responding cell was undergoing the HR. Catalase treatment to decompose H2O2 almost entirely eliminated staining, but 3-amino-1,2,4-triazole (catalase inhibitor) did not affect the pattern of distribution of H2O2 detected. H2O2 production was reduced more by the inhibition of plant peroxidases (with potassium cyanide and sodium azide) than by inhibition of neutrophil-like NADPH oxidase (with diphenylene iodonium chloride). Results suggest that CeCl3 reacts with excess H2O2 that is not rapidly metabolized during cross-linking reactions occurring in cell walls; such an excess of H2O2 in the early stages of the plant-bacterium interaction was only produced during the HR. The highly localized accumulation of H2O2 is consistent with its direct role as an antimicrobial agent and as the cause of localized membrane damage at sites of bacterial attachment.
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