Detection of Acidovorax citrulli, the Causal Agent of Bacterial Fruit Blotch Disease of Cucurbits, Prevention via Seed Treatments and Disease Resistance Genes

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Virginia Tech


Melon (Cucumis melo L.) and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum and Nakai) belong to the family Cucurbitaceae. Bacterial fruit blotch (BFB) disease of cucurbits is an economically devastating plant disease that has caused an estimated loss of up to $450M on watermelon crops and $75M (worldwide) to the seed and transplant industries since 1996. Disease symptoms include water-soaked cotyledons, leaf necrosis, and internal fruit rot. Current commercial management strategies are very limited and include: seed production field sanitation, greenhouse transplant sanitation, copper-based bactericide sprays, crop rotation, disease-free healthy seeds, isolating diseased plants, and peroxyacetic acid seed treatments. The seedborne disease is usually spread by contaminated seeds, and there is a zero-tolerance policy in the seed industry for infected seeds. No nondestructive assays are commercially available to detect BFB in seeds. This research investigated several different aspects of BFB disease such as non-destructive seed detection, green tea seed treatment, candidate NB-LRR genes for disease resistance, and optimization of virus induced gene silencing for melon and watermelon crops. The potential application of attenuated total reflectance (ATR) Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) and high-resolution X-ray analysis methods for detection of BFB on seeds were evaluated. It was possible to detect BFB in seeds that were pistil inoculated via x-ray imaging and pericarp inoculated via ATR FT-IR. In vitro and in vivo experiments evaluated the potential of tea (Camellia sinensis) and tea polyphenols as seed treatments to sanitize seeds infected with A. citrulli. Green tea unlike black tea inhibited growth of A. citrulli because of polyphenols. Eighty one melon and forty four watermelon NB-LRR genes were reidentified, and genes that have potential resistance against A. citrulli on melon plants were screened based on host selectivity of the pathogen. Finally, the virus-induced, gene-silencing method was optimized for melon and watermelon for further analysis of potential disease resistance genes. BFB can be nondestructively identified in seeds and green tea may be an effective seed treatment with further development. Promising candidate R genes were identified that might confer stable resistance in the right genetic background.



Acidovorax citrulli, bacterial fruit blotch, cucurbits, non-destructive seed assays, disease detection, virus induced gene silencing, tea treatments, disease resistance