Assessing tomato germplasm for climate-resilient, broad-spectrum parasite resistance


GCRF AgriFood Africa Innovation Awards Round 1





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About the project

UK-registered partner: Queen’s University Belfast – Johnathan Dalzell
Africa-registered partner: University of Ghana, West African Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI) – Prof Eric Danquah

This project assessed the impact of temperature variation on the interaction between tomato and plant parasitic nematode populations collected from a diverse range of crop systems and African Countries spanning West, Central and East Africa. Parasite hatching, chemotaxis (tomato host-finding) and invasion (tomato root penetration) assays revealed significant differences within and between parasite populations as a factor of tomato growth temperature. The effect of temperature on hatching and chemotaxis was unequivocally related to the temperature impact on tomato root exudate composition, as revealed by GC-MS analyses. Furthermore, root exudates were collected and parasite response was tested in temperature controlled conditions. These data indicate that temperature modulates tomato root exudate composition, and reveals temperature-dependent root exudate metabolomic biomarkers. Temperature-dependent compositional variation of tomato root exudate alters parasite hatching, attraction and root invasion in a parasite genotype-dependent fashion.

To understand the molecular and physiological drivers for temperature-dependent root exudate modulation in tomato, we developed high quality transcriptomes, non-coding (nc)RNA profiles, computationally predicted RNA-small ncRNA interaction networks, and RNA degradomes. These data reveal a highly complex network of RNA interactions, including protein-coding and long non-coding RNAs being subject to temperature-dependent small ncRNA cleavage and degradation events. Several gene families implicated in exudate modification through our previous work are implicated in these networks.

Taken together, these data identify a range of temperature-modulated metabolomic biomarkers for altered parasite hatching, attraction and invasion of tomato. These data also characterise the protein-coding and non-coding RNA networks underpinning temperature-dependent root exudate changes relevant to parasite behaviour, in support of marker-dependent crop breeding programmes, or genetic engineering strategies.


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