|Title of Project|
|Wilting our Coffee: the evolution of Fusarium xylarioides and its effectors|
|This project going to be…|
|Full Name of Supervisor|
|Pietro D SPANU|
|Institution Department and Address|
London, London SW72AZ
|Professor of Molecular Plant Pathology|
|Full name of the day to day supervisor and/or arrangements for supervision|
|Date of Project Commencement|
|Brief Description of Project|
|Coffee has become everyone’s necessity in the morning. It is more than just caffeine that helps us to get through a morning. While we are drinking this bean juice, coffee trees and coffee farmers are fighting against the coffee wilt outbreak. Coffee wilt is caused by a parasitic fungal pathogen called Furasium xylarioides. This fungal pathogen induces death in the vascular system of the coffee tree so it cannot properly transport water and nutrients to its fruits and leaves. A limited supply of nutrients means fewer fruits (where we get coffee beans) grow, if any at all. This fungus has evolved and adapted to infect coffee species for almost 100 years. This process is called ‘Co-evolution’, the coffee evolves to avoid being infected as the fungus also evolves to continue infecting the coffee species. This project is trying to understand how this pathogen evolves to become hostile and infectious to coffee by looking at the effector of the pathogen. Effectors are proteins secreted by the plant pathogen to help them infect the plant. The understanding of the effector, as well as co-evolution between this fungus and coffee, potentially leads to improvements in coffee breeding to be more immune to this fungus and potentially any other fungi. Hopefully, this knowledge will help farmers in selecting their coffee varieties and alleviate the result of wilt outbreaks.|
The aim of this project is to test both host shifts and pathogenicity using a list of 65 recently described putative effectors as well as infection assays using fungal strains collected over the past 70 years. The first part of this project will involve the selection of target genes and their controls. The second part will involve developing methods for initiating quantitative infection in tomato fruits and measuring time course gene expression in the plant.
Throughout the project, a wide range of techniques will be implemented, which are bioinformatics (designing and testing primer pairs, analysing genomics data), plant disease skills (culturing fungal strains, pathogenicity assays) and molecular biology skills (PCR, qRT-PCR).
|Attach the recommended reading for the project|
|1 Peck, L. D., Nowell, R. W., Flood, J., Ryan, M. R. & Barraclough, T. G. Historical genomics reveals the evolutionary mechanisms behind multiple outbreaks of the host-specific coffee wilt pathogen Fusarium xylarioides. BMC genomics 22, 1-24, doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-021-07700-4 (2021).|