The bacterium Brenneria salicis is the causal agent of watermark disease in willow. This work shows the importance of in situ studies and high-resolution separation of biological samples with ultrahigh performance liquid chromatography combined with ion trap mass spectrometry to unambiguously identify molecular compounds associated with this disease. Approximately 40 oligolignols accumulated in wood sap of watermark diseased willow, and are indicative for degradation of the xylem cell wall, of which 15 were structurally assigned based on an earlier study. Many bacteria are known to produce and release quorum sensing signal molecules that switch oil the expression of specific, sometimes pathogenic functions. Two quorum sensing signal molecules, N-(3-oxohexanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone and N-(hexanoyl)-L-homoserine lactone, were present in 4/1 ratios in diseased wood and in high-density in vitro cultures of B. salicis at 0.13-1.2 mu M concentrations, and absent in healthy wood and in low-density in vitro cultures of B. salicis. Although it is not a proof. it call be an indication for involvement of quorum sensing in B. salicis pathogenesis. Cyclic dipeptides were present at high concentrations in high-density in vitro cultures of B. salicis, but not in situ. and were found not to be involved in quorum sensing signaling, therefore, the attribution of quorum signal properties to cyclic dipeptides isolated from in vitro cultures of pathogenic bacteria should be reconsidered. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.