Drew Fister presents seminar at the Plant and Animal Genome Conference, San Diego, Jan. 2015

Posted: January 26, 2015

Functional Genomics of Defense Response in Theobroma cacao

Andrew Fister , The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Zi Shi , University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Siela Maximova , The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Mark Guiltinan , The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Annually, approximately 40% of the cacao crop is lost to a variety of diseases, predominantly in developing countries where farmers have limited access to pesticides and biocontrol agents. Breeding of disease resistant varieties is severely hindered by the lack of availability of genetic resistance and by the time- and resource-intensive nature of the work. To accelerate both the discovery of resistance genes and to more rapidly breed for pathogen resistance, we have developed a pipeline for functional genomics of cacao. To prioritize candidate genes, we have designed a framework integrating genetic data with expression data and QTL map locations to guide selection of candidate defense genes for functional studies. A suite of functional genomics techniques are being used to explore the potential role of the candidate genes in defense. Genomic sequences from a core diversity germplasm collection will be used to characterize the genetic diversity within the candidate genes. We will use our functional genomics platform to identify favorable versions of these genes. The presentation will focus on preliminary work which has led to identification of several high-priority candidate defense genes, and functional analysis which has revealed both positive and negative regulators of defense.