Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Breeding for resistance

A team of researchers from four countries has analysed the DNA of the kiwifruit disease Psa to identify its origins and develop new ways of breeding for resistance to it.

An international collaboration of scientists at five organisations – Plant and Food Research and Massey University in New Zealand, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany, the University of Basel in Switzerland and University of Toronto in Canada – has shown that a single source of the Psa bacterium is responsible for the recent outbreaks of Psa in New Zealand and Italy, as well as earlier outbreaks in Japan and Korea.

The research is published in the leading international journal of pathogen biology PLoS Pathogens.

“The Psa bacterium is likely to have its ancient origins in Asia, the birthplace of kiwifruit, but the Psa-V strain is a much more recent off-shoot,” Professor Paul Rainey, one of the collaborators, said.

“Analysis of the genome of Psa from around the world shows that outbreaks of disease in Japan in the 1980s, Korea in the 1990s and Italy in 2008 have been caused by different strains sampled from a single source population.

“The genome sequence from the Psa bacterium will support the development of new tools and technologies to control the disease.”


Dr Erik Rikkerink

Project leader

Plant and Food Research

“The strain responsible for the Italian and subsequent NZ outbreaks, Psa-V, has spread rapidly around the world. Understanding its evolution provides us with a more complete picture and suggests that new outbreaks are possible from this ancient source.

“New Zealand and other kiwifruit growing regions need to maintain vigilance to prevent incursions of new strains of the disease.”

“The genome sequence from the Psa bacterium will support the development of new tools and technologies to control the disease,” Dr Erik Rikkerink, science group leader and project leader at Plant and Food Research, said.

“Bacteria living in close proximity routinely swap genes to create new strains, some of which cause disease and others that are benign. This swapping means you need to be careful about which genes you use as targets for resistance.

“From our global collection of strains of Psa we have identified a subset of key genes present in all Psa strains, including the virulent strain found in New Zealand.

“We are now using this information at a molecular level to identify new methods to control Psa and to breed the next generation of kiwifruit cultivars with durable resistance to the disease.”

More articles on this topic