The pathogenic fungus Ophiostoma novo-ulmi spreads within the secondary xylem vessels of infected elm trees, causing the formation of vessel plugs due to tyloses and gels, which ultimately result in Dutch elm disease. Foliage discoloration, wilting and falling from the tree are typical external leaf symptoms of the disease followed by the subsequent death of sensitive trees. Cellulolytic enzymes produced by the fungus are responsible for the degradation of medium molecular weight macromolecules of cellulose, resulting in the occurrence of secondary cell wall ruptures and cracks in the vessels but rarely in the fibers (Ďurkovič et al., 2014). The goal of this procedure is to evaluate the extent of cellulose degradation by a highly aggressive strain of O. novo-ulmi ssp. americana × novo-ulmi. Size-exclusion chromatography (SEC) compares molecular weight distributions of cellulose between the infected and the non-infected elm trees, and reveals changes in the macromolecular traits of cellulose, including molecular weights, degree of polymerization, and polydispersity index. 13C magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (13C MAS NMR) spectra help to identify and also to quantify the loss of both crystalline and non-crystalline cellulose regions due to degradation. The procedure described herein can also be easily used for other woody plants infected with various cellulose-degrading fungi.
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