Unveiling the Genetics of a Fungal Threat to Hickory Trees

Greg Howard
8th March, 2024

Unveiling the Genetics of a Fungal Threat to Hickory Trees

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers in Zhejiang, China, sequenced the genome of a fungus harming Chinese hickory trees
  • They found 18 unique protein clusters in the fungus that may cause the tree disease
  • A new method to alter the fungus's genes was developed, aiding future disease control
Chinese hickory trees, native to China and valued for their nuts, are under threat from a disease causing trunk cankers. Researchers at Zhejiang Agriculture and Forest University have made significant progress in understanding this disease caused by the fungus Lasiodiplodia theobromae[1]. Prior to this study, the molecular and genetic basis of the fungus's pathogenicity was not well-understood, despite its significant impact on the Chinese hickory industry. The study focused on sequencing and assembling the genome of the L. theobromae strain LTTK16-3, which was isolated from an infected Chinese hickory tree. This genome sequencing is a critical step in identifying the specific genes and proteins that enable the fungus to infect and damage the trees. Comparative genomics analysis, which looks at the differences and similarities between the genomes of different organisms, showed that LTTK16-3 shares common mechanisms for transcription, DNA replication, and DNA damage response with other related fungal pathogens. However, the study also discovered 18 protein clusters unique to the LTTK16-3 strain, suggesting that these may play a role in the specific interaction between the fungus and the Chinese hickory tree. Understanding these unique factors is crucial because they could be potential targets for disease control strategies. Furthermore, this research has led to the development of an efficient method for creating protoplasts from L. theobromae and transforming them using polyethylene glycol (PEG). Protoplasts are cells with their walls removed, and they are used in genetic engineering because they can take up DNA more easily. This new method opens the door for future studies to manipulate the fungus's genes and further explore the mechanisms of pathogenicity. This study builds upon previous research that identified B. dothidea as a common pathogen in trunk cankers[2], as well as the importance of auxin, a plant hormone, in the grafting process of Chinese hickory[3]. It also expands on findings that showed the prevalence of B. dothidea and other Botryosphaeriaceae species in trunk cankers[4], and the issues with managing L. theobromae in other crops like citrus due to latent infections[5]. The research from Zhejiang Agriculture and Forest University sets a foundation for future work in understanding how L. theobromae infects and damages Chinese hickory trees. With the high-quality genome data and the new genetic transformation system, scientists can now investigate the pathogenesis of L. theobromae with the aim of developing targeted controls for Chinese hickory canker. This could ultimately lead to more effective management of the disease and a reduction in the economic losses it causes to the Chinese hickory industry.



Main Study

1) High-quality genome assembly and genetic transformation system of Lasiodiplodia theobromae strain LTTK16-3, a fungal pathogen of Chinese hickory.

Published 5th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Phenotypic and Genomic Difference among Four Botryosphaeria Pathogens in Chinese Hickory Trunk Canker.


3) Genome-wide identification and expression profiles of ABCB gene family in Chinese hickory (Carya cathayensis Sarg.) during grafting.


4) Diversity of Botryosphaeriaceae Species Associated with Chinese Hickory Tree (Carya cathayensis) Trunk Cankers.


5) Draft Genome Sequence Resource of the Citrus Stem-End Rot Fungal Pathogen Lasiodiplodia theobromae CITRA15.


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