Active Projects

  • Project 1: Comparative functional genomics to investigate subgenome dominance in strawberry

    The domesticated garden strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) is an interspecific hybrid of two wild octoploids (2n = 8x = 56); one species being native to North America (F. virginiana) and the other to the New World along the Pacific Ocean (F. chiloensis). Domestication has further shaped the genome, with selection for fruit size, firmness, external pigmentation, and shell life, while greatly diminishing in the diversity and intensity of fruit taste and aroma. Thus, the genome of garden strawberry has been shaped by interactions among the subgenomes and octoploid genomes of the wild progenitor species, coupled with selection, migration, mutation, and random genetic drift. Major goals of this project are to; A) capture the genetic and phenotypic diversity present in Fragaria along the continuum of wild to domesticated germplasm, B) investigate the role of subgenome dominance in shaping phenotypic diversity, C) identify and validate the genetics encoding fruit flavor and fragrance, and D) construct a functional genomics platform to guide modern breeding efforts and utilize untapped diversity.

    Project personnel: Patrick Edger (PI), Elizabeth Alger, Kevin Bird, Scott Teresi Alan Yocca

     

    Recent publication: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-019-0356-4

     

  • Project 2: Dissecting the genetic architecture of insect-induced gall formation in highbush blueberry

    The parasitic wasp (Hemadas nubilipennis) is a devastating pest to the blueberry industry and remains the top research priority set by the Michigan Blueberry Advisory Committee for the past four years. This species of wasp lays its eggs within young developing shoots, often near floral buds, and produces a gall, a multi-chambered plant structure that serves as a protective habitat and nutritional source for developing larvae. Gall formation negatively affects plant growth both by action of oviposition, which causes visible injury to the plant host, and by feeding of the larvae. Galls are a strong physiological sink that redirects nutrients and sugars, resources needed for proper fruit development, within the plant host. This leads to significant decreases in crop yield. We have identified germplasm that displays strong resistance to this pest (i.e. absence of galls), unlike leading cultivated varieties that are highly susceptible to this insect – with tens to hundreds of galls per individual plant. The primary goal of this project is to dissect the genetic components underlying gall development and identify genetic markers that will permit us to select new resistant, superior blueberry cultivars. 

    Project personnel: Patrick Edger (PI)

    Collaborators: Rufus Isaac (MSU), Philip Fanning (MSU)

     

  • Project 3: Developing genomic tools to facilitate breeding of highbush blueberry for anthracnose fruit rot resistance

    Anthracnose fruit rot is the most destructive and widespread fruit disease of blueberries across the United States, impacting both yield and overall fruit quality. The primary goal of this project is to develop a more cost effective and environmentally conscious solution for anthracnose fruit rot. This research will not only permit us to gain valuable insight into the underlying genetics of anthracnose fruit resistance, but develop molecular markers that will enable breeding programs to release superior cultivars that are resistant to anthracnose fruit rot. 

    Project personnel: Patrick Edger (PI)

    Collaborators: Guo-Qing Song (MSU) and Tim Miles (MSU)

     

  • Project 4: Phylogenetic and Functional Diversity of Tripartite Plant-Fungal-Bacterial Symbioses

    One of the most significant evolutionary events in the history of life on earth was the colonization of land by plants, which required key plant innovations including new anatomical, metabolic, and physiological traits. We were recently funded by NSF-DEB ‘Dimensions of Biodiversity’ (Co-PI Edger) to investigate the co-evolutionary dynamics with fungal and bacterial endosymbionts that likely permitted terrestrialization. A major goal of the project will be to identify critical genes involved in facilitating symbiotic interactions that improve overall plant fitness and abiotic stress response (e.g. drought, heat, and nutrients) in diverse lineages.

    Project personnel: Patrick Edger, Alan Yocca

    Collaborators: Gregory Bonito (MSU), Bjoern Hamberger (MSU), Kevin Liu (MSU)