Adam Vivian-Smith

Research Scientist

(+47) 924 76 773
adam.vivian-smith@nibio.no

Place
Ås H8

Visiting address
Høgskoleveien 8, 1433 Ås

Abstract

European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), a keystone species with wide distribution and habitat range in Europe, is threatened at a continental scale by an invasive alien ascomycete, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. In its native range of Asia, this fungus is a leaf endophyte with weak parasitic capacity and robust saprobic competence in local ash species that are closely related to European ash. In European ash, H. fraxineus has a similar functional role as in Asia, but the fungus also aggressively kills shoots, resulting in crown dieback and tree death. H. fraxineus is a typical invasive species, as its spread relies on high propagule pressure. While crown dieback of European ash is the most obvious symptom of ash dieback, the annual colonization of ash leaves is a crucial key dependency for the invasiveness of H. fraxineus, since its fruiting bodies are formed on overwintered leaf vein tissues in soil debris. Leaves of European ash host a wide range of indigenous epiphytes, endophytes, facultative parasites and biotrophic fungi, including Hymenoscyphus albidus, a relative of H. fraxineus that competes for the same sporulation niche as the invader. At face value, leaves of European ash are colonized by a large and diverse indigenous mycobiome. In order to understand why this invader became successful in Europe, we discuss and summarize the current knowledge of diversity, seasonal dynamics and traits of H. fraxineus and indigenous fungi associated with leaves of European ash.

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Abstract

Accelerating international trade and climate change make pathogen spread an increasing concern. Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the causal agent of ash dieback, is a fungal pathogen that has been moving across continents and hosts from Asian to European ash. Most European common ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) are highly susceptible to H.fraxineus, although a minority (~5%) have partial resistance to dieback. Here, we assemble and annotate a H.fraxineus draft genome, which approaches chromosome scale. Pathogen genetic diversity across Europe and in Japan, reveals a strong bottleneck in Europe, though a signal of adaptive diversity remains in key host interaction genes. We find that the European population was founded by two divergent haploid individuals. Divergence between these haplotypes represents the ancestral polymorphism within a large source population. Subsequent introduction from this source would greatly increase adaptive potential of the pathogen. Thus, further introgression of H.fraxineus into Europe represents a potential threat and Europe-wide biological security measures are needed to manage this disease.

Abstract

In Norway the common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) has its northernmost distribution in Europe. It grows along the coastal range as small fragmented populations. The first occurrence of ash dieback caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus in Norway was reported in 2008. At that time, the disease had already spread through large areas of southern and south-eastern parts of Norway. Since then the disease continued spreading with a speed of about 50- 60 km per year along the western coastal range. To monitor the disease development over time, we established eight permanent monitoring plots in south-eastern and western Norway in 2009 and 2012, respectively. In all plots tree mortality was high, especially among the youngest trees in south-eastern Norway. The extent of crown damage has continually increased in all diameter classes for both regions. In 2009, 76.8 % of all trees on the five monitoring plots in south-eastern Norway were considered to be healthy or slightly damaged, and only 8.9 % to be severely damaged. In 2015, 51.7 % were dead, 13.5 % severely damaged and only 25.7 % remained healthy or slightly damaged. To assess the infection pressure and spore dispersal patterns of the pathogen, we used a Burkard volumetric spore sampler placed in an infested ash stand in southern Norway. We examined the airborne ascospores of H. fraxineus and H. albidus captured on the sampling tape microscopically and with real-time PCR assays specific to these fungi. We detected very few ascospores of H. albidus, whereas ascospores of H. fraxineus dominated throughout entire sampling periods of 2009, 2010 and 2011. Spore discharge occurred mainly between the hours of 5 and 8 a.m., though the distinctive sporulation had yearly variation between 5-7 a.m. We observed the same diurnal pattern throughout the entire sampling period, with a seasonal peak in spore liberation between mid-July and midAugust, after which the number of ascospores decreased substantially. Similar diurnal patterns were observed throughout the sampling period except that after mid-August the number of trapped ascospores substantially decreased. To compare the genetic pattern of common ash in the northern and central ranges of Europe we analyzed the Norwegian samples together with available samples from central Europe by using chloroplast and nuclear microsatellite markers. We found that the northern range of common ash was colonized via a single migration route that originated in eastern or south-eastern Europe with little influence originating from other southern or western European refugia. In the northern range margins, genetic diversity decreased and population differentiation increased, coherent with a post-glacial colonization history characterized by founder events and population fluctuations. Based on our findings we discuss the future management and conservational implications.

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Abstract

The plant hormone auxin is a vital component for plant reproduction as it regulates the development of both male and female reproductive organs, including ovules and gynoecia. Furthermore, auxin plays important roles in the development and growth of seeds and fruits. Auxin responses can be detected in ovules shortly after fertilization, and it has been suggested that this accumulation is a prerequisite for the developmental reprogramming of the ovules to seeds, and of the gynoecium to a fruit. However, the roles of auxin at the final stages of ovule development, and the sources of auxin leading to the observed responses in ovules after fertilization have remained elusive. Here we have characterized the auxin readout in Arabidopsis ovules, at the pre-anthesis, anthesis and in the immediate post-fertilization stages, using the R2D2 auxin sensor. In addition we have mapped the expression of auxin biosynthesis and conjugation genes, as well as that of auxin transporting proteins, during the same developmental stages. These analyses reveal specific spatiotemporal patterns of the different auxin homeostasis regulators. Auxin biosynthesis genes and auxin transport proteins define a prepatterning of vascular cell identity in the pre-anthesis funiculus. Furthermore, our data suggests that auxin efflux from the ovule is restricted in an anther-dependent manner, presumably to synchronize reproductive organ development and thereby optimizing the chances of successful fertilization. Finally, de novo auxin biosynthesis together with reduced auxin conjugation and transport result in an enhanced auxin readout throughout the sporophytic tissues of the ovules soon after fertilization. Together, our results suggest a sophisticated set of regulatory cascades that allow successful fertilization and the subsequent transition of the female reproductive structures into seeds and fruits.

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Abstract

High biodiversity is regarded as a barrier against biological invasions. We hypothesized that the invasion success of the pathogenic ascomycete Hymenoscyphus fraxineus threatening common ash in Europe relates to differences in dispersal and colonization success between the invader and the diverse native competitors. Ash leaf mycobiome was monitored by high-throughput sequencing of the fungal internal transcribed spacer region (ITS) and quantitative PCR profiling of H. fraxineus DNA. Initiation of ascospore production by H. fraxineus after overwintering was followed by pathogen accumulation in asymptomatic leaves. The induction of necrotic leaf lesions coincided with escalation of H. fraxineus DNA levels and changes in proportion of biotrophs, followed by an increase of ubiquitous endophytes with pathogenic potential. H. fraxineus uses high propagule pressure to establish in leaves as quiescent thalli that switch to pathogenic mode once these thalli reach a certain threshold – the massive feedback from the saprophytic phase enables this fungus to challenge host defenses and the resident competitors in mid-season when their density in host tissues is still low. Despite the general correspondence between the ITS-1 and ITS-2 datasets, marker biases were observed, which suggests that multiple barcodes provide better overall representation of mycobiomes.

Abstract

The necrotrophic fungus Drechslera teres causes net blotch disease in barley by secreting necrotrophic effectors (NEs) which, in the presence of corresponding host susceptibility factors (SF), act as virulence factors in order to enable host colonization. At present the resistance within most Norwegian cultivars is insufficient. This study aims at detecting QTL associated with resistance and susceptibility in the Nordic barley breeding material and at discovering new NE _ SF interactions. This knowledge together with an understanding of the genetic background of the Norwegian net blotch population will be utilized to speed up resistance breeding. Resistance of a segregating mapping population of a cross between the closely related Norwegian varieties Arve and Lavrans to three Norwegian D. teres isolates was assessed at seedling stage in the greenhouse and in adult plants in the field. QTL mapping revealed four major QTL on chromosomes 4H, 5H, 6H and 7H. The 5H and 6H QTL accounted for up to 47% and 14.1% of the genetic variance, respectively, and were found both in seedlings and adult plants with the latter QTL being an isolate-specific association. The high correlation of seedling and adult resistance (R2=0.49) suggests that components of adult plant resistance can be predicted already at the seedling stage. Selected isolates and their culture filtrates will be screened on selected barley lines to characterize novel NE - SF interactions and to map the corresponding sensitivity loci. Effector protein candidates will be purified and further analysed to verify their effect on disease development. Additionally, 365 Norwegian D. teres isolates and a selection of globally collected isolates are currently being ddRAD genotyped in order to obtain SNP markers to study the genetic diversity and population structure of the current Norwegian fungal population. This data will also allow us to perform Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) to identify potential novel NE genes.

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Abstract

Fruit-set involves a series of physiological and morphological changes that are well described for tomato and Arabidopsis, but largely unknown for sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum). The aim of this paper is to investigate whether mechanisms of fruit-set observed in Arabidopsis and tomato are also applicable to C. annuum. To do this, we accurately timed the physiological and morphological changes in a post-pollinated and un-pollinated ovary. A vascular connection between ovule and replum was observed in fertilized ovaries that undergo fruit development, and this connection was absent in unfertilized ovaries that abort. This indicates that vascular connection between ovule and replum is an early indicator for successful fruit development after pollination and fertilization. Evaluation of histological changes in the carpel of a fertilized and unfertilized ovary indicated that increase in cell number and cell diameter both contribute to early fruit growth. Cell division contributes more during early fruit growth while cell expansion contributes more at later stages of fruit growth in C. annuum. The simultaneous occurrence of a peak in auxin concentration and a strong increase in cell diameter in the carpel of seeded fruits suggest that indole-3-acetic acid stimulates a major increase in cell diameter at later stages of fruit growth. The series of physiological and morphological events observed during fruit-set in C. annuum are similar to what has been reported for tomato and Arabidopsis. This indicates that tomato and Arabidopsis are suitable model plants to understand details of fruit-set mechanisms in C. annuum.

Abstract

In Norway spruce there is an enigmatic epigenetic memory of the temperature conditions during embryogenesis affecting vital phenological traits (Yakovlev et al. 2012). Adaptive phenological traits such as bud burst and bud set, observed as clinal variation in nature, are the ones affected.The epigenetic memory is establishment exclusively during embryogenesis in response to environmental impact. The epitype fixated by the time the embryo is fully developed without any change in the primary DNA sequence and is mitotically propogated. The epigenetic mechanism influence the phenotype through altered regulation of gene expression and is propagated throughout every growth cycle for the entire lifespan of this long lived species.The epigenetic memory may be realized through several molecular mechanisms including DNA methylation, and histone modifications affecting chromatin, as well as by small non-coding RNAs, and may also be related to the mechanisms silencing transposable or repetitive elements in the genome. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), endogenous small regulatory RNAs, are shown to be differentially expressed in genetically identically but epigenetically different progenies, in regards to the timing of bud burst and bud set (Yakovlev et al. 2010).We have started large scale studies using next regeneration sequencing approaches to identify and characterize the genes and regulatory elements involved in the initiation, maintenance, and heritability of the epigenetic memory. Epigenetic related changes in miRNA regulation during the establishment of the epigenetic memory are now studied in in vitro derived somatic embryos developing under cold (18C) and warm (30C) environmental conditions (that induce epitypes).We have constructed and sequenced 10 small RNA libraries during proliferation, maturation stage 1, 2 3 and the mature stage of embryo formation in the contrasted temperatures, in two control libraries during proliferation at 22C, as well as their mRNA transcriptomes using the Ion Torrent PGMTM (Life technologies) platform.We are expecting to determine at what stage(s) during embryogenesis the epigenetic memory marks are being laid down by identifying when the transcriptomic differences, of small RNA and mRNAs, between the epitypes are the most prominent during embryogenesis. The identification of novel miRNA candidates and the confirmation of conserved and novel miRNAs will be presented.

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Abstract

Background Parthenocarpy is a desirable trait in Capsicum annuum production because it improves fruit quality and results in a more regular fruit set. Previously, we identified several C. annuum genotypes that already show a certain level of parthenocarpy, and the seedless fruits obtained from these genotypes often contain carpel-like structures. In the Arabidopsis bel1 mutant ovule integuments are transformed into carpels, and we therefore carefully studied ovule development in C. annuum and correlated aberrant ovule development and carpelloid transformation with parthenocarpic fruit set. Results We identified several additional C. annuum genotypes with a certain level of parthenocarpy, and confirmed a positive correlation between parthenocarpic potential and the development of carpelloid structures. Investigations into the source of these carpel-like structures showed that while the majority of the ovules in C. annuum gynoecia are unitegmic and anatropous, several abnormal ovules were observed, abundant at the top and base of the placenta, with altered integument growth. Abnormal ovule primordia arose from the placenta and most likely transformed into carpelloid structures in analogy to the Arabidopsis bel1 mutant. When pollination was present fruit weight was positively correlated with seed number, but in the absence of seeds, fruit weight proportionally increased with the carpelloid mass and number. Capsicum genotypes with high parthenocarpic potential always showed stronger carpelloid development. The parthenocarpic potential appeared to be controlled by a single recessive gene, but no variation in coding sequence was observed in a candidate gene CaARF8. Conclusions Our results suggest that in the absence of fertilization most C. annuum genotypes, have parthenocarpic potential and carpelloid growth, which can substitute developing seeds in promoting fruit development.