April 21, 2020  |  

The Chinese chestnut genome: a reference for species restoration

Forest tree species are increasingly subject to severe mortalities from exotic pests, diseases, and invasive organisms, accelerated by climate change. Forest health issues are threatening multiple species and ecosystem sustainability globally. While sources of resistance may be available in related species, or among surviving trees, introgression of resistance genes into threatened tree species in reasonable time frames requires genome-wide breeding tools. Asian species of chestnut (Castanea spp.) are being employed as donors of disease resistance genes to restore native chestnut species in North America and Europe. To aid in the restoration of threatened chestnut species, we present the assembly of a reference genome with chromosome-scale sequences for Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima), the disease-resistance donor for American chestnut restoration. We also demonstrate the value of the genome as a platform for research and species restoration, including new insights into the evolution of blight resistance in Asian chestnut species, the locations in the genome of ecologically important signatures of selection differentiating American chestnut from Chinese chestnut, the identification of candidate genes for disease resistance, and preliminary comparisons of genome organization with related species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome sequence resource for Ilyonectria mors-panacis, causing rusty root rot of Panax notoginseng.

Ilyonectria mors-panacis is a serious disease hampering the production of Panax notoginseng, an important Chinese medicinal herb, widely used for its anti-inflammatory, anti-fatigue, hepato-protective, and coronary heart disease prevention effects. Here, we report the first Illumina-Pacbio hybrid sequenced draft genome assembly of I. mors-panacis strain G3B and its annotation. The availability of this genome sequence not only represents an important tool toward understanding the genetics behind the infection mechanism of I. mors-panacis strain G3B but also will help illuminate the complexities of the taxonomy of this species.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genomics-informed molecular detection of Xanthomonas vasicola pv. vasculorum strains causing severe bacterial leaf streak of corn.

Xanthomonas vasicola pv. vasculorum (syn. X. campestris pv. vasculorum) was initially identified as the causal agent of bacterial leaf streak of corn in South Africa. The pathovar vasculorum causes disease on sugarcane and corn, but a subset of these strains was noted for its increased disease severity in corn. This subset was re-classified as Xanthomonas campestris pv. zeae in the early 1990s and was found to have slightly different biochemical and genetic properties than isolates from sugarcane. There has been an emergence of X. campestris pv. zeae-like strains of X. vasicola pv. vasculorum in both the United States and Argentina since 2010. We performed whole genome sequencing on U.S. isolates to confirm their identity. Informed by comparative genomics, we then developed specific TaqMan qPCR and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assays for the detection of this specific subset of X. vasicola pv. vasculorum strains. The qPCR 4909 assay was tested against 27 xanthomonads (diverse representation), 32 DNA extractions from corn leaves confirmed as positive or negative for the bacterium, 41 X. vasicola pv. vasculorum isolates from corn in the United States and Argentina, and 31 additional bacteria associated with corn, sugarcane, or sorghum. In all cases the assay was shown to be specific for the X. vasicola pv. vasculorum isolates that cause more severe disease on corn. We then tested the LAMP 166 assay against the 27 xanthomonads and 32 corn leaf DNA samples, and we found this assay was also specific for this subset of X. vasicola pv. vasculorum isolates. We also developed a live/dead cells distinction protocol using propidium monoazide prior to DNA extraction for analyzing seed washes using these assays. These two detection assays can be useful for both diagnosticians and researchers to specifically identify the X. vasicola pv. vasculorum isolates that cause more severe symptoms on corn.


April 21, 2020  |  

Draft genome sequence resource of switchgrass rust pathogen, Puccinia novopanici isolate Ard-01.

Puccinia novopanici is an important biotrophic fungal pathogen that causes rust disease in switchgrass. Lack of genomic resources for P. novopanici has hampered the progress towards developing effective disease resistance against this pathogen. Therefore, we have sequenced the whole genome of P. novopanici and generated a framework to understand pathogenicity mechanisms, identify effectors, repeat element invasion, genome evolution, and comparative genomics among Puccinia species in the future. Long and short read sequences were generated from P. novopanici genomic DNA by PacBio and Illumina technologies, respectively, and assembled a 99.9 megabase (Mb) genome. Transcripts of P. novopanici were predicted from assembled genome using MAKER and were further validated by RNAseq data. The genome sequence information of P. novopanici will be a valuable resource for researchers working on monocot rusts and plant disease resistance in general.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome Sequence Resource of a Puccinia striiformis Isolate infecting wheatgrass.

Stripe rust caused by Puccinia striiformis is a disastrous disease of cereal crops and various grasses. To date, fourteen stripe rust genomes are publicly available, including thirteen P. striiformis f. sp. tritici and one P. striiformis f. sp. hordei. In this study, one isolate (11-281) of P. striiformis collected from wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), which is avirulent to most of standard differential genotypes of wheat and barley, was sequenced, assembled, and annotated. The sequences were assembled to a draft genome of 84.75 Mb, which is comparable to previously sequenced P. striiformis f. sp. tritici and P. striiformis f. sp. hordei isolates. The draft genome comprised 381 scaffolds and contained 1,829 predicted secreted proteins. The high quality draft genome of the isolate is a valuable resource in shedding light on the evolution and pathogenicity of P. striiformis.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genome data of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense race 1 and tropical race 4 isolates using long-read sequencing.

Fusarium wilt of banana is caused by the soil-borne fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc). We generated two chromosome-level assemblies of Foc race 1 and tropical race 4 strains using single-molecule real-time sequencing. The Foc1 and FocTR4 assemblies had 35 and 29 contigs with contig N50 lengths of 2.08 Mb and 4.28 Mb, respectively. These two new references genomes represent a greater than 100-fold improvement over the contig N50 statistics of the previous short read-based Foc assemblies. The two high-quality assemblies reported here will be a valuable resource for the comparative analysis of Foc races at the pathogenic levels.


April 21, 2020  |  

Defining transgene insertion sites and off-target effects of homology-based gene silencing informs the use of functional genomics tools in Phytophthora infestans.

DNA transformation and homology-based transcriptional silencing are frequently used to assess gene function in Phytophthora. Since unplanned side-effects of these tools are not well-characterized, we used P. infestans to study plasmid integration sites and whether knockdowns caused by homology-dependent silencing spreads to other genes. Insertions occurred both in gene-dense and gene-sparse regions but disproportionately near the 5′ ends of genes, which disrupted native coding sequences. Microhomology at the recombination site between plasmid and chromosome was common. Studies of transformants silenced for twelve different gene targets indicated that neighbors within 500-nt were often co-silenced, regardless of whether hairpin or sense constructs were employed and the direction of transcription of the target. However, cis-spreading of silencing did not occur in all transformants obtained with the same plasmid. Genome-wide studies indicated that unlinked genes with partial complementarity with the silencing-inducing transgene were not usually down-regulated. We learned that hairpin or sense transgenes were not co-silenced with the target in all transformants, which informs how screens for silencing should be performed. We conclude that transformation and gene silencing can be reliable tools for functional genomics in Phytophthora but must be used carefully, especially by testing for the spread of silencing to genes flanking the target.


April 21, 2020  |  

Relative Performance of MinION (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) versus Sequel (Pacific Biosciences) Third-Generation Sequencing Instruments in Identification of Agricultural and Forest Fungal Pathogens.

Culture-based molecular identification methods have revolutionized detection of pathogens, yet these methods are slow and may yield inconclusive results from environmental materials. The second-generation sequencing tools have much-improved precision and sensitivity of detection, but these analyses are costly and may take several days to months. Of the third-generation sequencing techniques, the portable MinION device (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) has received much attention because of its small size and possibility of rapid analysis at reasonable cost. Here, we compare the relative performances of two third-generation sequencing instruments, MinION and Sequel (Pacific Biosciences), in identification and diagnostics of fungal and oomycete pathogens from conifer (Pinaceae) needles and potato (Solanum tuberosum) leaves and tubers. We demonstrate that the Sequel instrument is efficient for metabarcoding of complex samples, whereas MinION is not suited for this purpose due to a high error rate and multiple biases. However, we find that MinION can be utilized for rapid and accurate identification of dominant pathogenic organisms and other associated organisms from plant tissues following both amplicon-based and PCR-free metagenomics approaches. Using the metagenomics approach with shortened DNA extraction and incubation times, we performed the entire MinION workflow, from sample preparation through DNA extraction, sequencing, bioinformatics, and interpretation, in 2.5 h. We advocate the use of MinION for rapid diagnostics of pathogens and potentially other organisms, but care needs to be taken to control or account for multiple potential technical biases.IMPORTANCE Microbial pathogens cause enormous losses to agriculture and forestry, but current combined culturing- and molecular identification-based detection methods are too slow for rapid identification and application of countermeasures. Here, we develop new and rapid protocols for Oxford Nanopore MinION-based third-generation diagnostics of plant pathogens that greatly improve the speed of diagnostics. However, due to high error rate and technical biases in MinION, the Pacific BioSciences Sequel platform is more useful for in-depth amplicon-based biodiversity monitoring (metabarcoding) from complex environmental samples.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


April 21, 2020  |  

Plantibacter flavus, Curtobacterium herbarum, Paenibacillus taichungensis, and Rhizobium selenitireducens Endophytes Provide Host-Specific Growth Promotion of Arabidopsis thaliana, Basil, Lettuce, and Bok Choy Plants.

A collection of bacterial endophytes isolated from stem tissues of plants growing in soils highly contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons were screened for plant growth-promoting capabilities. Twenty-seven endophytic isolates significantly improved the growth of Arabidopsis thaliana plants in comparison to that of uninoculated control plants. The five most beneficial isolates, one strain each of Curtobacterium herbarum, Paenibacillus taichungensis, and Rhizobium selenitireducens and two strains of Plantibacter flavus were further examined for growth promotion in Arabidopsis, lettuce, basil, and bok choy plants. Host-specific plant growth promotion was observed when plants were inoculated with the five bacterial strains. P. flavus strain M251 increased the total biomass and total root length of Arabidopsis plants by 4.7 and 5.8 times, respectively, over that of control plants and improved lettuce and basil root growth, while P. flavus strain M259 promoted Arabidopsis shoot and root growth, lettuce and basil root growth, and bok choy shoot growth. A genome comparison between P. flavus strains M251 and M259 showed that both genomes contain up to 70 actinobacterial putative plant-associated genes and genes involved in known plant-beneficial pathways, such as those for auxin and cytokinin biosynthesis and 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate deaminase production. This study provides evidence of direct plant growth promotion by Plantibacter flavusIMPORTANCE The discovery of new plant growth-promoting bacteria is necessary for the continued development of biofertilizers, which are environmentally friendly and cost-efficient alternatives to conventional chemical fertilizers. Biofertilizer effects on plant growth can be inconsistent due to the complexity of plant-microbe interactions, as the same bacteria can be beneficial to the growth of some plant species and neutral or detrimental to others. We examined a set of bacterial endophytes isolated from plants growing in a unique petroleum-contaminated environment to discover plant growth-promoting bacteria. We show that strains of Plantibacter flavus exhibit strain-specific plant growth-promoting effects on four different plant species.Copyright © 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


April 21, 2020  |  

Effector gene reshuffling involves dispensable mini-chromosomes in the wheat blast fungus.

Newly emerged wheat blast disease is a serious threat to global wheat production. Wheat blast is caused by a distinct, exceptionally diverse lineage of the fungus causing rice blast disease. Through sequencing a recent field isolate, we report a reference genome that includes seven core chromosomes and mini-chromosome sequences that harbor effector genes normally found on ends of core chromosomes in other strains. No mini-chromosomes were observed in an early field strain, and at least two from another isolate each contain different effector genes and core chromosome end sequences. The mini-chromosome is enriched in transposons occurring most frequently at core chromosome ends. Additionally, transposons in mini-chromosomes lack the characteristic signature for inactivation by repeat-induced point (RIP) mutation genome defenses. Our results, collectively, indicate that dispensable mini-chromosomes and core chromosomes undergo divergent evolutionary trajectories, and mini-chromosomes and core chromosome ends are coupled as a mobile, fast-evolving effector compartment in the wheat pathogen genome.


April 21, 2020  |  

Intercellular communication is required for trap formation in the nematode-trapping fungus Duddingtonia flagrans.

Nematode-trapping fungi (NTF) are a large and diverse group of fungi, which may switch from a saprotrophic to a predatory lifestyle if nematodes are present. Different fungi have developed different trapping devices, ranging from adhesive cells to constricting rings. After trapping, fungal hyphae penetrate the worm, secrete lytic enzymes and form a hyphal network inside the body. We sequenced the genome of Duddingtonia flagrans, a biotechnologically important NTF used to control nematode populations in fields. The 36.64 Mb genome encodes 9,927 putative proteins, among which are more than 638 predicted secreted proteins. Most secreted proteins are lytic enzymes, but more than 200 were classified as small secreted proteins (< 300 amino acids). 117 putative effector proteins were predicted, suggesting interkingdom communication during the colonization. As a first step to analyze the function of such proteins or other phenomena at the molecular level, we developed a transformation system, established the fluorescent proteins GFP and mCherry, adapted an assay to monitor protein secretion, and established gene-deletion protocols using homologous recombination or CRISPR/Cas9. One putative virulence effector protein, PefB, was transcriptionally induced during the interaction. We show that the mature protein is able to be imported into nuclei in Caenorhabditis elegans cells. In addition, we studied trap formation and show that cell-to-cell communication is required for ring closure. The availability of the genome sequence and the establishment of many molecular tools will open new avenues to studying this biotechnologically relevant nematode-trapping fungus.


April 21, 2020  |  

A whole genome scan of SNP data suggests a lack of abundant hard selective sweeps in the genome of the broad host range plant pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.

The pathogenic fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum infects over 600 species of plant. It is present in numerous environments throughout the world and causes significant damage to many agricultural crops. Fragmentation and lack of gene flow between populations may lead to population sub-structure. Within discrete recombining populations, positive selection may lead to a ‘selective sweep’. This is characterised by an increase in frequency of a favourable allele leading to reduction in genotypic diversity in a localised genomic region due to the phenomenon of genetic hitchhiking. We aimed to assess whether isolates of S. sclerotiorum from around the world formed genotypic clusters associated with geographical origin and to determine whether signatures of population-specific positive selection could be detected. To do this, we sequenced the genomes of 25 isolates of S. sclerotiorum collected from four different continents-Australia, Africa (north and south), Europe and North America (Canada and the northen United States) and conducted SNP based analyses of population structure and selective sweeps. Among the 25 isolates, there was evidence for two major population clusters. One of these consisted of 11 isolates from Canada, the USA and France (population 1), and the other consisted of nine isolates from Australia and one from Morocco (population 2). The rest of the isolates were genotypic outliers. We found that there was evidence of outcrossing in these two populations based on linkage disequilibrium decay. However, only a single candidate selective sweep was observed, and it was present in population 2. This sweep was close to a Major Facilitator Superfamily transporter gene, and we speculate that this gene may have a role in nutrient uptake from the host. The low abundance of selective sweeps in the S. sclerotiorum genome contrasts the numerous examples in the genomes of other fungal pathogens. This may be a result of its slow rate of evolution and low effective recombination rate due to self-fertilisation and vegetative reproduction.


April 21, 2020  |  

A High-Quality Grapevine Downy Mildew Genome Assembly Reveals Rapidly Evolving and Lineage-Specific Putative Host Adaptation Genes.

Downy mildews are obligate biotrophic oomycete pathogens that cause devastating plant diseases on economically important crops. Plasmopara viticola is the causal agent of grapevine downy mildew, a major disease in vineyards worldwide. We sequenced the genome of Pl. viticola with PacBio long reads and obtained a new 92.94?Mb assembly with high contiguity (359 scaffolds for a N50 of 706.5?kb) due to a better resolution of repeat regions. This assembly presented a high level of gene completeness, recovering 1,592 genes encoding secreted proteins involved in plant-pathogen interactions. Plasmopara viticola had a two-speed genome architecture, with secreted protein-encoding genes preferentially located in gene-sparse, repeat-rich regions and evolving rapidly, as indicated by pairwise dN/dS values. We also used short reads to assemble the genome of Plasmopara muralis, a closely related species infecting grape ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata). The lineage-specific proteins identified by comparative genomics analysis included a large proportion of RxLR cytoplasmic effectors and, more generally, genes with high dN/dS values. We identified 270 candidate genes under positive selection, including several genes encoding transporters and components of the RNA machinery potentially involved in host specialization. Finally, the Pl. viticola genome assembly generated here will allow the development of robust population genomics approaches for investigating the mechanisms involved in adaptation to biotic and abiotic selective pressures in this species. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

The smut fungus Ustilago esculenta has a bipolar mating system with three idiomorphs larger than 500?kb.

Zizania latifolia Turcz., which is mainly distributed in Asia, has had a long cultivation history as a cereal and vegetable crop. On infection with the smut fungus Ustilago esculenta, Z. latifolia becomes an edible vegetable, water bamboo. Two main cultivars, with a green shell and red shell, are cultivated for commercial production in Taiwan. Previous studies indicated that cultivars of Z. latifolia may be related to the infected U. esculenta isolates. However, related research is limited. The infection process of the corn smut fungus Ustilago maydis is coupled with sexual development and under control of the mating type locus. Thus, we aimed to use the knowledge of U. maydis to reveal the mating system of U. esculenta. We collected water bamboo samples and isolated 145 U. esculenta strains from Taiwan’s major production areas. By using PCR and idiomorph screening among meiotic offspring and field isolates, we identified three idiomorphs of the mating type locus and found no sequence recombination between them. Whole-genome sequencing (Illumina and PacBio) suggested that the mating system of U. esculenta was bipolar. Mating type locus 1 (MAT-1) was 552,895?bp and contained 44% repeated sequences. Sequence comparison revealed that U. esculenta MAT-1 shared high gene synteny with Sporisorium reilianum and many repeats with Ustilago hordei MAT-1. These results can be utilized to further explore the genomic diversity of U. esculenta isolates and their application for water bamboo breeding. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

The role of long-term mineral and organic fertilisation treatment in changing pathogen and symbiont community composition in soil

Application of organic fertilisers to soil prevents erosion, improves fertility and may suppress certain soil-borne plant pathogens, but it is still unclear how different trophic groups of fungi and oomycetes respond to long-term fertilisation treatment. The objective of the study was to examine the effect of different fertilisation regimes on fungal and oomycete pathogen- and mycorrhizal symbiont diversity and community structure in both soil and roots, using PacBio SMRT sequencing. The field experiment included three fertilisation treatments that have been applied since 1989: nitrogen fertilisation (WOM), nitrogen fertilisation with manure amendment (FYM) and alternative organic fertilisation (AOF), each applied at five different rates. Soil samples were collected three times during the growing season, while root samples were collected during the flowering stage. There was no influence of the studied variables on soil and root pathogen richness. Contrary to our hypothesis, pathogen relative abundance in both soil and roots was significantly higher in plots with the AOF treatment. Furthermore, richness and relative abundance of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi decreased significantly in the AOF treatment. Permutational analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) demonstrated the effect of fertilisation treatment on pathogen community composition in both soil and roots. Our findings indicate that organic fertilisers may not always benefit soil microbial community composition. Therefore, further studies are needed to understand how fertilisation affects mycorrhizal mutualists and pathogens.


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