Patterns of colonization of Vitis vinifera L. cv. Chardonnay plantlets by a plant growth-promoting bacterium, Burkholderia sp. strain PsJN, were studied under gnotobiotic conditions. Wild-type strain PsJN and genetically engineered derivatives of this strain tagged with gfp (PsJN::gfp2x) or gusA (PsJN::gusA11) genes were used to enumerate and visualize tissue colonization. The rhizospheres of 4- to 5-week-old plantlets with five developed leaves were inoculated with bacterial suspensions. Epiphytic and endophytic colonization patterns were then monitored by dilution plating assays and microscopic observation of organ sections. Bacteria were chronologically detected first on root surfaces, then in root internal tissues, and finally in the fifth internode and the tissues of the fifth leaf. Analysis of the PsJN colonization patterns showed that this strain colonizes grapevine root surfaces, as well as cell walls and the whole surface of some rhizodermal cells. Cells were also abundant at lateral root emergence sites and root tips. Furthermore, cell wall-degrading endoglucanase and endopolygalacturonase secreted by PsJN explained how the bacterium gains entry into root internal tissues. Host defense reactions were observed in the exodermis and in several cortical cell layers. Bacteria were not observed on stem and leaf surfaces but were found in xylem vessels of the fifth internode and the fifth leaf of plantlets. Moreover, bacteria were more abundant in the fifth leaf than in the fifth internode and were found in substomatal chambers. Thus, it seems that Burkholderia sp. strain PsJN induces a local host defense reaction and systemically spreads to aerial parts through the transpiration stream.