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Plant scientists in drive to influence tuber shape formation

Comparison of potato tubers (c) James Hutton Institute
"If we can identify which genes have a role in shape formation, we would be able to design molecular markers which could help breeding in the future.

Crop traits such as consistency, predictability and storability are highly desirable for the agricultural industry, and of particular importance to potato growers. However, do we understand the genetics behind the traits, and more importantly, can these be influenced by breeding techniques? An international team of plant scientists hopes to offer potato breeders an extra tool by looking into the genes associated with tuber shape formation, particularly in plants infected with potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd).

A highly contagious plant disease, PSTVd can cause stunted appearance and shape of leaves and tubers in potato plants. Despite being the first viroid to be identified by scientists back in 1971, it is still not well understood how it can affect genes in the host plant. After looking at the genes that affect tuber formation after viroid infection, the team’s findings suggests that two specific genetic pathways are involved in the development of distorted tubers.

Plant scientist Dr Csaba Hornyik, from the Cell and Molecular Sciences of the James Hutton Institute in Dundee and co-author of the study, says the research offers significant insight into how PSTVd affects potato plants.

“Viroid infection can strongly influence tuber development and especially tuber shape. By using a large-scale method, we’ve identified defence, stress, hormone pathway and sugar metabolism related genes having altered expression levels upon infection.

“More work should be done in this field to find and proof which genes have a role in shape formation. If we can identify them, we would be able to design molecular markers which could help breeding in the future. This study is still a starting point to do this, using an alternative ‘tool’, the potato spindle tuber viroid.”  

Besides James Hutton Institute researchers, the international consortium also comprised scientists from the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Greece), the University of Crete (Greece) and Zhejiang University (China).

The paper Insight on Genes Affecting Tuber Development in Potato upon Potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd) Infection is published in PLOS One

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Printed from /news/plant-scientists-drive-influence-tuber-shape-formation on 22/05/19 09:46:31 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.