Barriers to Gene Transfer in an Interspecific Cucurbita Cross

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticultural Sciences, Cornell Univ., Geneva, NY 14456

Cucurbita ecuadorensis is a valuable source of multiple virus resistance. It is resistant to zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV), papaya ringspot virus (PRSV), watermelon mosaic virus, tobacco ringspot virus, squash mosaic virus, and cucumber mosaic virus (CMV). Its virus resistance can be transferred to squash and pumpkin, but sterility barriers must be overcome. The cross Cucurbita maxima× C. ecuadorensis can readily be made, and there is no need for embryo culture. Pollen fertility of the hybrid is somewhat reduced, but sufficient for producing F2 seed. Segregation for sterility occurs in the F2, but selection can be made for fertile plants that are homozygous for virus resistance. Cucurbita ecuadorensis is much more distantly related to C. pepo than to C. maxima, and there are more formidable barriers in this interspecific cross. The cross is very difficult to make with some C. pepo cultivars, but other cultivars are more compatible. Viable seed were not produced, but hybrid plants were obtained by embryo culture. Although both parents were monoecious, the hybrid was gynoecious. Male flower formation was induced by treating the hybrid with Ag or GA, but they were male-sterile. F2 seed was not obtained, but backcross seed was easily produced by using the interspecific hybrid as the maternal parent in crosses with C. pepo. The most refractory barrier was achieving homozygosity for ZYMV resistance. Disturbed segregation occurred in succeeding generations and the progeny of most resistant plants segregated and were not uniform for resistance. This and other barriers to interspecific gene exchange were overcome and a summer squash variety homozygous for resistance to ZYMV, PRSV, and CMV is being released this year.

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