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Development of Molecular Tools for Rapid Disease Detection and Characterization of Fungal Virulence and Host-Pathogen Interactions of Oak Wilt Disease
March 19 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am EDT
Our departmental seminar speaker this week is Meher Ony, who will be presenting her Ph.D. Proposal Seminar titled “Development of Molecular Tools for Rapid Disease Detection and Characterization of Fungal Virulence and Host-Pathogen Interactions of Oak Wilt Disease”. Join us at 10:30 am EST/9:30 am CST on Friday, March 19, 2021, via the Zoom link information that is provided at the end of this message.
Oak species (Quercus spp.; Fagaceae) are one of the most widely distributed hardwood tree species in the world with more than 500 species documented in the Americas, Europe, and tropical Asia. There are 58 oak species native to the United States (U.S.) which contribute more than $348 billion annually. These keystone species also provide invaluable forest ecosystem services for more than 100 wildlife species. However, oak species in the U.S. are threatened by a variety of abiotic and biotic threats including the vascular wilt disease, oak wilt. Oak wilt is caused by the fungal pathogen, Bretziella fagacearum which affects at least 33 oak species. Common symptoms include wilting and browning of leaves, branch dieback with xylem discoloration, and fungal mat formation underneath the bark of dying red oak species. Additionally, red oak species are experiencing more severe symptoms and dying several months after infection compared to white oak species, which are typically more resistant to the disease. Formation of tyloses in secondary xylem is hypothesized to help white oaks resist oak wilt. However, variation in pathogen virulence and the underlying mechanisms for resistance in white oak species and host-pathogen interactions are unknown. Furthermore, diagnosis of oak wilt can be challenging due to similar symptoms that are induced by other diseases and abiotic stressors. Therefore, an accurate and rapid detection tool is needed for disease diagnosis. To address these knowledge gaps, our study is focusing on the following objectives: 1) develop rapid molecular detection tools for B. fagacearum within infected hosts, 2) characterize pathogenicity and virulence of B. fagacearum on white oak (Quercus alba) and red oak (Q. rubra) species, and 3) identify differentially expressed genes between B. fagacearum infected white oak and red oak trees. Findings will contribute to disease management and conservation plans to protect native oak resources.