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Shanqiang Ke, Chiwon W. Lee and Zong-Ming Cheng

Coleoptile tissues excised from young seedlings of `Touchdown' Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) were bombarded with the disarmed Agrobacterium tumefaciens strain EHA 101 carrying rolC (from A. rhizogenes), NPT II and GUS genes. These tissues were then cultured on Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium containing 0.2 mg·L–1 picloram, 0.01 mg·L–1 naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), 150 mg·L–1 kanamycin, and 50 m acetosyringone. Calli formed on this medium within 2 weeks. The regenerated plants from these calli were analyzed for the presence of the GUS and rolC genes by histochemical GUS assay, PCR, and Southern hybridization. Only 3.7% of the regenerants were transformed when determined by the GUS assay. A similar frequency of transformation in the regenerated plants was obtained after bombarding the coleoptile tissues with the DNA isolated from the pGA-GUSGF-rolC plasmid. Most of the putative transformants were either albinos or variegated plants that are composed of both albino and green tissues.

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Yonghong Guo, Zong-Ming Cheng and James A. Walla

Five simplified DNA preparation procedures for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification were tested for detection of phytoplasmas from infected herbaceous and woody plants. Thin freehand cross-sections made from infected plant tissues and stored in acetone were used as sources for DNA preparation. The tissue sections were treated by: 1) grinding in sodium hydroxide; 2) sonicating in water; 3) microwaving in water; 4) boiling in sodium hydroxide; or 5) placing directly in PCR tube. PCR amplification was performed with a universal phytoplasma-specific primer pair in a reaction buffer containing 0.5% (v/v) Triton X-100, 1.5 mm magnesium chloride, and 10 mm Tris-HCl. All five procedures provided phytoplasmal template DNA for successful PCR amplification from infected herbaceous plants {periwinkle [Catharanthus roseus (L.) G. Don (periwinkle)], carrot (Daucus carota L.), maize (Zea mays L.)}, while the grinding, microwaving, and boiling procedures also allowed positive amplification from a woody plant [green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.)]. The quality of the resulting DNA was adequate for subsequent identification of the aster yellows and ash yellows phytoplasmas through nested-PCR using phytoplasma group-specific primer pairs. These methods provide remarkable savings in labor and materials, making disease testing and indexing of plant materials much more attractive.

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Kimberly A. Pickens, (Max) Zong-Ming Cheng and Stephen A. Kania

Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, is an important holiday symbol and is the number one flowering potted plant in the United States. The technique of chromosome doubling has been utilized to increase size of flowers, stems, and leaves of many species, and has been used in poinsettia breeding to obtain new cultivars. Application of colchicine or oryzalin to in vitro tissues may be used to enlarge the inflorescences and brackets and reduce the height of `Winter Rose'™ poinsettias, reduce the likelihood of chimeric tetraploids, and provide a rapid means for producing many tetraploid plants. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the effect of colchicine and oryzalin on callus and adventitious shoot formation of `Winter Rose'™ poinsettia with in vitro grown leaf tissues and its potential for tetraploid induction. In vitro grown leaf midvein sections were placed on various media supplemented with either colchicine or oryzalin at various concentrations for 1–4 days. Colchicine was least damaging to leaf tissues at concentrations of 0.25 or 250.4 μm. A large amount of callus, as well as adventitious shoots, were produced. Regenerated shoots were found to be diploid, determined by flow cytometry. On media with oryzalin (28.9–144 μm), leaf tissues produced callus, but not adventitious shoots. Calluses produced on oryzalin-containing media were tested using the flow cytometer and were found to be diploid.

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Ying Li, Liyi Zhang, Zhen Zhang, Peihua Cong and Zong-Ming Cheng

Alternaria alternata apple pathotype (previously A. mali) causes alternaria blotch disease of apple (Malus ×domestica), which may result in leaf spots and up to 70% premature leaf drop in serious cases. This disease is of worldwide importance but is most serious in eastern Asia (Japan, Korea, and China) and in parts of the United States. The excessive use of fungicides not only adds cost to apple growers, but also pollutes the environment. In this study, we characterized a 5-year F1 population from a cross of a resistant cultivar (Huacui) and a susceptible cultivar (Golden Delicious) consisting of 110 individuals along with 14-year-old parent trees (10 each). A field evaluation of disease severity was conducted in 2008 and 2009 under the natural conditions in Liaoning, China (lat. 40°37′ N, long. 120°44′ E). Based on the field data, 110 F1 plants were divided into five groups. Artificial inoculation was carried out both on the living trees and on the detached leaves in 2009 to ensure that A. alternata apple pathotype was the causative agent. Eighty primer pairs of simple sequence repeat (SSR) were screened against the four genomic DNA pools, respectively, from six highly susceptible F1 plants, six most resistant F1 plants, one tree of the seed parent, and the one tree of the pollen parent. One pair of primers (CH05g07) was shown to be linked to the DNA pools of susceptible F1 and the parent tree, but not to the DNA pools of resistant F1 and parent trees. This primer pair was then used to screen all individual 110 F1 progenies and two parent trees. The differentiation of 103 individuals (97.3%) with the marker matched the field disease resistance rating. This marker was further screened with 20 cultivars with known susceptibility or resistance to A. alternata apple pathotype and its linkage to susceptibility was validated. These results suggest that this marker can be used in marker-assisted selection for resistance/susceptibility to alternaria blotch disease in apple.

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Wanmei Jin, Qiang Zhang, Sunzhong Liu, Qinping Wei, Wanmei Jin, Zongming Cheng, Xiaohui Xue and Tingzhen Yang

Molecular markers are valuable tools in evaluating genetic diversity and fingerprinting plant germplasm. In this report, simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers were used for assessing genetic diversity in 41 dwarf and semidwarf and early flowering apple (Malus sp.) rootstocks. Sixty-two of 112 pairs of SSR primers generated multiple, scorable fragments. The total number of scored bands was 4138 with the polymorphic frequency ranging from 22.0% to 68.6% with a mean value of 58.5% in 737 alleles. The number of alleles per locus ranged from 6 to 19 with an average of 11.9 alleles. Polymorphic information content per locus was ranged from 0.176 to 0.885 with an average value of 0.606. These results suggested a complex genetic background and genetic diversity in these apple rootstocks. Based on three principal components and unweighted pair group mean average (UPGMA) of SSR data, the 41 apple rootstocks were divided into five groups. Group I contained M. xiaojinensis ‘Xiaojinhaitang'. Group II consisted of M. hupehensis var. pingyiensis ‘Pingyitiancha'. Group III contained M. baccata ‘Shandingzi' and its offspring. Group IV was composed of 16 apple rootstocks, including Malling and Malling Merton series from Great Britain; ‘Budagovski 9' from Russia; ‘Polish 22' from Poland; ‘Cornell-Geneva 24' from the United States; and ‘GM.256', ‘Nei Meng 11', ‘MD.001', ‘7734', and ‘7848' from China. Group V consisted of 16 Shao series rootstocks, which were offspring of M. honanensis × M. domestica ‘Ralls Genet'. This research suggests that the breeding can achieve best performance with more robust rootstock if crosses were performed among these five major groups of germplasms rather than within the major groups.

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Ying Li, Xiao-Li Hu, Robert N. Trigiano, Herbert Aldwinckle and Zong-Ming (Max) Cheng

Apple blotch caused by Alternaria alternata apple pathotype is a severe disease of apple (Malus ×domestica Borkh) occurring throughout the world, especially in eastern Asia. Phenotypic and genetic information about resistance/susceptibility of apple germplasm to this disease will be extremely valuable for selecting and developing new disease resistant cultivars. In this study, 110 apple cultivars obtained from the USDA apple germplasm in Geneva, NY, were evaluated for their resistance/susceptibility to apple blotch by field surveys, and inoculation of detached leaves with a suspension of germinated conidia of A. alternata apple pathotype. Disease incidence were different among the cultivars and categorized into resistant (R), moderately resistant (MR), or susceptible (S). Two molecular markers, S428, a random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) marker associated with disease resistance, and a simple sequence repeat (SSR or microsatellite) marker CH05g07, linked to susceptibility were used to correlate the phenotypes expressed in field surveys and laboratory inoculations. The detection using either the S428 marker or the CH05g07 marker in 50 common breeding cultivars was consistent with R or S traits except for ‘Bisbee’ and ‘Priscilla’. These two cultivars were MR to apple blotch through phenotyping. However, SSR markers were detected, but RAPD markers were not and therefore were considered susceptible. Combined with the record of resistance to fire blight from Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), ‘Dayton’, ‘Mildew Immune Seedling’, ‘Puregold’, and ‘Pumpkin Sweet’ were highly resistant to both diseases and considered as the best choices of parents for stacking resistance to multiple diseases in breeding program.

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Chiwon W. Lee, Lijuan Wang, Shanqiang Ke, Mingbo Qin and Zong-Ming Cheng

The phenotypic expression and inheritance of the rolC gene in the transgenic plants of Salpiglossis sinuata L. were investigated. The chasmogamous salpiglossis plants with solid yellow flower color (ccrrDD) were transformed with Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains LBA4404 and EHA101 carrying rolC, GUS, and NPTII genes via a leaf disc co-cultivation system. The transgenic plants were shorter in plant height, produced more branches with a compact growth habit, and developed smaller flowers and narrower leaves as compared to the control plant. While the transgenic plants showed the same corolla color and color shades as the parental line, they became male sterile. A backcross between a male-sterile transgenic plant (ccrrDD plus rolC) and a nontransformed red-flowering line (ccRRDD) produced a progeny with red flower color and the same altered growth habit as the transgenic female parent. Only 4 out of 32 plants in this progeny population showed the negative GUS staining as well as the non transgenic phenotype. These results suggest that at least two copies of the rolC gene were integrated into one homologous chromosome pair during transformation and that a cross-over event may have occurred during meiosis.

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Ying Chen, Xinlu Chen, Fei Hu, Hua Yang, Li Yue, Robert N. Trigiano and Zong-Ming (Max) Cheng

Agave species are economically important plants in tropical and subtropical desert ecosystems as ornamentals as well as potential bioenergy crops. However, their relatively long life cycles and the current lack of biotechnology tools hinder their breeding. In this study, an efficient system for micropropagation was developed for Agave americana L. by using basal stems as explants and grown on a modified Murashige and Skoog medium (MSI) or a 1/2 MSI medium supplemented with various concentrations of 6-benzylaminopurine (BA) for shoot proliferation. The highest number of shoots (18.5 shoots/explant) from basal stems was obtained on MSI supplemented with 13.32 μM BA. An efficient shoot regeneration system was also developed from leaf tissues. Combinations of auxin with cytokinin, basal media, and leaf regions were optimized for shoot induction. Adventitious shoot formation from leaf segments was induced and proliferated with combination ranging of 0.54 to 2.68 μM [α-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA)] with 8.88 to 13.32 μM (BA), and the maximum frequency (≈69%) was obtained with 2.68 μM NAA plus 13.32 μM BA. MSI medium and the basal segment of leaf affected shoot induction. The highest rooting frequency and mean number of shoots occurred in 1/2 MSI containing with 4.92 μM indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) alone (90%, 3.4) or 1.48 μM IBA plus 1.61 μM NAA (92%, 5.2). Survival of in vitro plantlets after transfer and acclimatization to ex vitro conditions was 87%. This is the first complete protocol for micropropagation of A. americana.