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  |  

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  |  

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  |  

Secretion of an Argonaute protein by a parasitic nematode and the evolution of its siRNA guides.

Extracellular RNA has been proposed to mediate communication between cells and organisms however relatively little is understood regarding how specific sequences are selected for export. Here, we describe a specific Argonaute protein (exWAGO) that is secreted in extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by the gastrointestinal nematode Heligmosomoides bakeri, at multiple copies per EV. Phylogenetic and gene expression analyses demonstrate exWAGO orthologues are highly conserved and abundantly expressed in related parasites but highly diverged in free-living genus Caenorhabditis. We show that the most abundant small RNAs released from the nematode parasite are not microRNAs as previously thought, but rather secondary small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) that are produced by RNA-dependent RNA Polymerases. The siRNAs that are released in EVs have distinct evolutionary properties compared to those resident in free-living or parasitic nematodes. Immunoprecipitation of exWAGO demonstrates that it specifically associates with siRNAs from transposons and newly evolved repetitive elements that are packaged in EVs and released into the host environment. Together this work demonstrates molecular and evolutionary selectivity in the small RNA sequences that are released in EVs into the host environment and identifies a novel Argonaute protein as the mediator of this. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.


April 21, 2020  |  

Genomic Plasticity Mediated by Transposable Elements in the Plant Pathogenic Fungus Colletotrichum higginsianum.

Phytopathogen genomes are under constant pressure to change, as pathogens are locked in an evolutionary arms race with their hosts, where pathogens evolve effector genes to manipulate their hosts, whereas the hosts evolve immune components to recognize the products of these genes. Colletotrichum higginsianum (Ch), a fungal pathogen with no known sexual morph, infects Brassicaceae plants including Arabidopsis thaliana. Previous studies revealed that Ch differs in its virulence toward various Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes, indicating the existence of coevolutionary selective pressures. However, between-strain genomic variations in Ch have not been studied. Here, we sequenced and assembled the genome of a Ch strain, resulting in a highly contiguous genome assembly, which was compared with the chromosome-level genome assembly of another strain to identify genomic variations between strains. We found that the two closely related strains vary in terms of large-scale rearrangements, the existence of strain-specific regions, and effector candidate gene sets and that these variations are frequently associated with transposable elements (TEs). Ch has a compartmentalized genome consisting of gene-sparse, TE-dense regions with more effector candidate genes and gene-dense, TE-sparse regions harboring conserved genes. Additionally, analysis of the conservation patterns and syntenic regions of effector candidate genes indicated that the two strains vary in their effector candidate gene sets because of de novo evolution, horizontal gene transfer, or gene loss after divergence. Our results reveal mechanisms for generating genomic diversity in this asexual pathogen, which are important for understanding its adaption to hosts. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.


April 21, 2020  |  

A Species-Wide Inventory of NLR Genes and Alleles in Arabidopsis thaliana.

Infectious disease is both a major force of selection in nature and a prime cause of yield loss in agriculture. In plants, disease resistance is often conferred by nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NLR) proteins, intracellular immune receptors that recognize pathogen proteins and their effects on the host. Consistent with extensive balancing and positive selection, NLRs are encoded by one of the most variable gene families in plants, but the true extent of intraspecific NLR diversity has been unclear. Here, we define a nearly complete species-wide pan-NLRome in Arabidopsis thaliana based on sequence enrichment and long-read sequencing. The pan-NLRome largely saturates with approximately 40 well-chosen wild strains, with half of the pan-NLRome being present in most accessions. We chart NLR architectural diversity, identify new architectures, and quantify selective forces that act on specific NLRs and NLR domains. Our study provides a blueprint for defining pan-NLRomes.Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


April 21, 2020  |  

Blast Fungal Genomes Show Frequent Chromosomal Changes, Gene Gains and Losses, and Effector Gene Turnover.

Pyricularia is a fungal genus comprising several pathogenic species causing the blast disease in monocots. Pyricularia oryzae, the best-known species, infects rice, wheat, finger millet, and other crops. As past comparative and population genomics studies mainly focused on isolates of P. oryzae, the genomes of the other Pyricularia species have not been well explored. In this study, we obtained a chromosomal-level genome assembly of the finger millet isolate P. oryzae MZ5-1-6 and also highly contiguous assemblies of Pyricularia sp. LS, P. grisea, and P. pennisetigena. The differences in the genomic content of repetitive DNA sequences could largely explain the variation in genome size among these new genomes. Moreover, we found extensive gene gains and losses and structural changes among Pyricularia genomes, including a large interchromosomal translocation. We searched for homologs of known blast effectors across fungal taxa and found that most avirulence effectors are specific to Pyricularia, whereas many other effectors share homologs with distant fungal taxa. In particular, we discovered a novel effector family with metalloprotease activity, distinct from the well-known AVR-Pita family. We predicted 751 gene families containing putative effectors in 7 Pyricularia genomes and found that 60 of them showed differential expression in the P. oryzae MZ5-1-6 transcriptomes obtained under experimental conditions mimicking the pathogen infection process. In summary, this study increased our understanding of the structural, functional, and evolutionary genomics of the blast pathogen and identified new potential effector genes, providing useful data for developing crops with durable resistance. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


April 21, 2020  |  

Transcriptome analysis reveals multiple signal network contributing to the Verticillium wilt resistance in eggplant

Verticillium wilt is a devastating disease in eggplants. In order to understand the molecular mechanism of disease resistance in eggplants, transcriptomes of Verticillium wilt infected eggplants were detected. A total of 480, 518, 887 and 1 046 Verticillium wilt related differentially expressed genes were identified at 6 (V6), 12 (V12), 24 (V24) and 48?h (V48), respectively. COG function classification revealed that most of DEGs functioned in “Amino acid transport and metabolism”, “Cytoskeleton” and “Cell motility”. In addition, compared the control plants (V0) to infected eggplants (V6-V48), a total of 111 common DEGs were identified. Except for “General function prediction only”, most of the DEGs enriched in “Signal transduction”. DEGs associated to different hormone signals, including GID1B, ROPGAP1, OPT3 and CDPK, were identified throughout the whole infection process. Cross-talk among defense signal pathways plays major roles in the Verticillium wilt disease resistance in eggplants.


April 21, 2020  |  

Comparative genomics and pathogenicity potential of members of the Pseudomonas syringae species complex on Prunus spp.

Diseases on Prunus spp. have been associated with a large number of phylogenetically different pathovars and species within the P. syringae species complex. Despite their economic significance, there is a severe lack of genomic information of these pathogens. The high phylogenetic diversity observed within strains causing disease on Prunus spp. in nature, raised the question whether other strains or species within the P. syringae species complex were potentially pathogenic on Prunus spp.To gain insight into the genomic potential of adaptation and virulence in Prunus spp., a total of twelve de novo whole genome sequences of P. syringae pathovars and species found in association with diseases on cherry (sweet, sour and ornamental-cherry) and peach were sequenced. Strains sequenced in this study covered three phylogroups and four clades. These strains were screened in vitro for pathogenicity on Prunus spp. together with additional genome sequenced strains thus covering nine out of thirteen of the currently defined P. syringae phylogroups. Pathogenicity tests revealed that most of the strains caused symptoms in vitro and no obvious link was found between presence of known virulence factors and the observed pathogenicity pattern based on comparative genomics. Non-pathogenic strains were displaying a two to three times higher generation time when grown in rich medium.In this study, the first set of complete genomes of cherry associated P. syringae strains as well as the draft genome of the quarantine peach pathogen P. syringae pv. persicae were generated. The obtained genomic data were matched with phenotypic data in order to determine factors related to pathogenicity to Prunus spp. Results of this study suggest that the inability to cause disease on Prunus spp. in vitro is not the result of host specialization but rather linked to metabolic impairments of individual strains.


April 21, 2020  |  

Linking CRISPR-Cas9 interference in cassava to the evolution of editing-resistant geminiviruses.

Geminiviruses cause damaging diseases in several important crop species. However, limited progress has been made in developing crop varieties resistant to these highly diverse DNA viruses. Recently, the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system has been transferred to plants to target and confer immunity to geminiviruses. In this study, we use CRISPR-Cas9 interference in the staple food crop cassava with the aim of engineering resistance to African cassava mosaic virus, a member of a widespread and important family (Geminiviridae) of plant-pathogenic DNA viruses.Our results show that the CRISPR system fails to confer effective resistance to the virus during glasshouse inoculations. Further, we find that between 33 and 48% of edited virus genomes evolve a conserved single-nucleotide mutation that confers resistance to CRISPR-Cas9 cleavage. We also find that in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana the replication of the novel, mutant virus is dependent on the presence of the wild-type virus.Our study highlights the risks associated with CRISPR-Cas9 virus immunity in eukaryotes given that the mutagenic nature of the system generates viral escapes in a short time period. Our in-depth analysis of virus populations also represents a template for future studies analyzing virus escape from anti-viral CRISPR transgenics. This is especially important for informing regulation of such actively mutagenic applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology in agriculture.


April 21, 2020  |  

Comprehensive analysis of full genome sequence and Bd-milRNA/target mRNAs to discover the mechanism of hypovirulence in Botryosphaeria dothidea strains on pear infection with BdCV1 and BdPV1

Pear ring rot disease, mainly caused by Botryosphaeria dothidea, is widespread in most pear and apple-growing regions. Mycoviruses are used for biocontrol, especially in fruit tree disease. BdCV1 (Botryosphaeria dothidea chrysovirus 1) and BdPV1 (Botryosphaeria dothidea partitivirus 1) influence the biological characteristics of B. dothidea strains. BdCV1 is a potential candidate for the control of fungal disease. Therefore, it is vital to explore interactions between B. dothidea and mycovirus to clarify the pathogenic mechanisms of B. dothidea and hypovirulence of B. dothidea in pear. A high-quality full-length genome sequence of the B. dothidea LW-Hubei isolate was obtained using Single Molecule Real-Time sequencing. It has high repeat sequence with 9.3% and DNA methylation existence in the genome. The 46.34?Mb genomes contained 14,091 predicted genes, which of 13,135 were annotated. B. dothidea was predicted to express 3833 secreted proteins. In bioinformatics analysis, 351 CAZy members, 552 transporters, 128 kinases, and 1096 proteins associated with plant-host interaction (PHI) were identified. RNA-silencing components including two endoribonuclease Dicer, four argonaute (Ago) and three RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) molecules were identified and expressed in response to mycovirus infection. Horizontal transfer of the LW-C and LW-P strains indicated that BdCV1 induced host gene silencing in LW-C to suppress BdPV1 transmission. To investigate the role of RNA-silencing in B. dothidea defense, we constructed four small RNA libraries and sequenced B. dothidea micro-like RNAs (Bd-milRNAs) produced in response to BdCV1 and BdPV1 infection. Among these, 167 conserved and 68 candidate novel Bd-milRNAs were identified, of which 161 conserved and 20 novel Bd-milRNA were differentially expressed. WEGO analysis revealed involvement of the differentially expressed Bd-milRNA-targeted genes in metabolic process, catalytic activity, cell process and response to stress or stimulus. BdCV1 had a greater effect on the phenotype, virulence, conidiomata, vertical and horizontal transmission ability, and mycelia cellular structure biological characteristics of B. dothidea strains than BdPV1 and virus-free strains. The results obtained in this study indicate that mycovirus regulates biological processes in B. dothidea through the combined interaction of antiviral defense mediated by RNA-silencing and milRNA-mediated regulation of target gene mRNA expression.


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