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The manipulation of apoptosis-related genes to generate resistance to Fusarium wilt and water stress in banana

Paul, Jean-Yves (2009) The manipulation of apoptosis-related genes to generate resistance to Fusarium wilt and water stress in banana. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Bananas are susceptible to a diverse range of biotic and abiotic stresses, many of which cause serious production constraints worldwide. One of the most destructive banana diseases is Fusarium wilt caused by the soil-borne fungus, Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc). No effective control strategy currently exists for this disease which threatens global banana production. Although disease resistance exists in some wild bananas, attempts to introduce resistance into commercially acceptable bananas by conventional breeding have been hampered by low fertility, long generation times and association of poor agronomical traits with resistance genes. With the advent of reliable banana transformation protocols, molecular breeding is now regarded as a viable alternative strategy to generate disease-resistant banana plants. Recently, a novel strategy involving the expression of anti-apoptosis genes in plants was shown to result in resistance against several necrotrophic fungi. Further, the transgenic plants showed increased resistance to a range of abiotic stresses. In this thesis, the use of anti-apoptosis genes to generate transgenic banana plants with resistance to Fusarium wilt was investigated. Since water stress is an important abiotic constraint to banana production, the resistance of the transgenic plants to water stress was also examined. Embryogenic cell suspensions (ECS) of two commercially important banana cultivars, Grand Naine (GN) and Lady Finger (LF), were transformed using Agrobacterium with the anti-apoptosis genes, Bcl-xL, Bcl-xL G138A, Ced-9 and Bcl- 2 3’ UTR. An interesting, and potentially important, outcome was that the use of anti-apoptosis genes resulted in up to a 50-fold increase in Agrobacterium-mediated transformation efficiency of both LF and GN cells over vector controls. Regenerated plants were subjected to a complete molecular characterisation in order to detect the presence of the transgene (PCR), transcript (RT-PCR) and gene product (Western blot) and to determine the gene copy number (Southern blot). A total of 36 independently-transformed GN lines (8 x Bcl-xL, 5 x Bcl-xL G138A, 15 x Ced-9 and 8 x Bcl-2 3’ UTR) and 41 independently-transformed LF lines (8 x Bcl-xL, 7 x BclxL G138A, 13 x Ced-9 and 13 x Bcl-2 3’ UTR) were identified. The 41 transgenic LF lines were multiplied and clones from each line were acclimatised and grown under glasshouse conditions for 8 weeks to allow monitoring for phenotypic abnormalities. Plants derived from 3 x Bcl-xL, 2 x Ced-9 and 5 x Bcl-2 3’ UTR lines displayed a variety of aberrant phenotypes. However, all but one of these abnormalities were off-types commonly observed in tissue-cultured, non-transgenic banana plants and were therefore unlikely to be transgene-related. Prior to determining the resistance of the transgenic plants to Foc race 1, the apoptotic effects of the fungus on both wild-type and Bcl-2 3’ UTR-transgenic LF banana cells were investigated using rapid in vitro root assays. The results from these assays showed that apoptotic-like cell death was elicited in wild-type banana root cells as early as 6 hours post-exposure to fungal spores. In contrast, these effects were attenuated in the root cells of Bcl-2 3’ UTR-transgenic lines that were exposed to fungal spores. Thirty eight of the 41 transgenic LF lines were subsequently assessed for resistance to Foc race 1 in small-plant glasshouse bioassays. To overcome inconsistencies in rating the internal (vascular discolouration) disease symptoms, a MatLab-based computer program was developed to accurately and reliably assess the level of vascular discolouration in banana corms. Of the transgenic LF banana lines challenged with Foc race 1, 2 x Bcl-xL, 3 x Ced-9, 2 x Bcl-2 3’ UTR and 1 x Bcl-xL G138A-transgenic line were found to show significantly less external and internal symptoms than wild-type LF banana plants used as susceptible controls at 12 weeks post-inoculation. Of these lines, Bcl-2 3’ UTR-transgenic line #6 appeared most resistant, displaying very mild symptoms similar to the wild-type Cavendish banana plants that were included as resistant controls. This line remained resistant for up to 23 weeks post-inoculation. Since anti-apoptosis genes have been shown to confer resistance to various abiotic stresses in other crops, the ability of these genes to confer resistance against water stress in banana was also investigated. Clonal plants derived from each of the 38 transgenic LF banana plants were subjected to water stress for a total of 32 days. Several different lines of transgenic plants transformed with either Bcl-xL, Bcl-xL G138A, Ced-9 or Bcl-2 3’ UTR showed a delay in visual water stress symptoms compared with the wild-type control plants. These plants all began producing new growth from the pseudostem following daily rewatering for one month. In an attempt to determine whether the protective effect of anti-apoptosis genes in transgenic banana plants was linked with reactive oxygen species (ROS)-associated programmed cell death (PCD), the effect of the chloroplast-targeting, ROS-inducing herbicide, Paraquat, on wild-type and transgenic LF was investigated. When leaf discs from wild-type LF banana plants were exposed to 10 ìM Paraquat, complete decolourisation occurred after 48 hours which was confirmed to be associated with cell death and ROS production by trypan blue and 3,3-diaminobenzidine (DAB) staining, respectively. When leaf discs from the transgenic lines were exposed to Paraquat, those derived from some lines showed a delay in decolourisation, suggesting only a weak protective effect from the transgenes. Finally, the protective effect of anti-apoptosis genes against juglone, a ROS-inducing phytotoxin produced by the causal agent of black Sigatoka, Mycosphaerella fijiensis, was investigated. When leaf discs from wild-type LF banana plants were exposed to 25 ppm juglone, complete decolourisation occurred after 48 hours which was again confirmed to be associated with cell death and ROS production by trypan blue and DAB staining, respectively. Further, TdT-mediated dUTP nick-end labelling (TUNEL) assays on these discs suggested that the cell death was apoptotic. When leaf discs from the transgenic lines were exposed to juglone, discs from some lines showed a clear delay in decolourisation, suggesting a protective effect. Whether these plants are resistant to black Sigatoka is unknown and will require future glasshouse and field trials. The work presented in this thesis provides the first report of the use of anti-apoptosis genes as a strategy to confer resistance to Fusarium wilt and water stress in a nongraminaceous monocot, banana. Such a strategy may be exploited to generate resistance to necrotrophic pathogens and abiotic stresses in other economically important crop plants.

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ID Code: 29263
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Harding, Robert, Becker, Douglas, Dale, James, & Khanna, Harjeet
Keywords: Fusarium wilt, water stress, banana, apoptosis-related genes
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 11 Dec 2009 05:19
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:54

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