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Dwight S. Fujii and Abhaya M. Dandekar

Many tree crops belonging to the Rosaceae family translocate and metabolize sorbitol. We have determined that some species of bacteria belonging to the genus Agrobacterium, Pseudomonas, and Erwinia pathogenic to the Rosaceae demonstrate the ability to metabolize sorbitol while those that were isolated from other hosts could not utilize sorbitol. Employing cellulose acetate electrophoresis (CAE) we have been able to demonstrate the presence of isoenzymes of sorbitol dehydrogenase (SDH) that correlate with the ability to metabolize sorbitol in these organisms. In order to study the properties of SDH in these organisms we carried out a detailed enzymatic analysis of the enzyme from A. tumefaciens. We found that the enzyme displayed activity when mannitol or xylitol were used as substrates, in addition to sorbitol. Michaelis constants (Km) were 32.8 mM, 0.19 mM, and 38.2 mM for sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol respectively. To further distinguish the reactions with the different substrates the enzymatic extracts were further characterized on CAE using different substrates to visualize patterns of isoenzymes for a particular sugar alcohol. These analyses revealed the presence of unique isoenzymes for SDH. In addition we observed the presence of mannitol dehydrogenase (MDH) representing in most species a non-specific polyol dehydrogenase.

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Kristi K. Barckley, Sandra L. Uratsu, Thomas M. Gradziel and Abhaya M. Dandekar

The California almond industry is the largest supplier of almonds [Prunus dulcis (Miller) D.A. Webb] in the United States and throughout the world. Self-incompatibility is a major issue in almond production as it greatly affects nut set. In this study, we determined full-length sequences for alleles Sa - Si, determined the genotypes of 44 California cultivars, and assigned the cultivars to cross-incompatibility groups (CIGs). Newly identified S-alleles led to an increase in the number of CIGs. A pairwise distance tree was constructed using the aligned amino acid sequences showing their similarity. Four pairs of alleles (Sc and Se, Sg and Sh, Sd and Sj, and Sb and Sf) showed high sequence similarity. Because of its simplicity, reproducibility, and ease of analysis, PCR is the preferred method for genotyping S-alleles.

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Sandra L. Uratsu, Hamid Ahmadi, Royce S. Bringhurst and Abhaya M. Dandekar

Several strains of Agrobacterium tumefaciens and A. rhizogenes were shown to form tumors on runners of the diploid strawberry species Fragaria vesca L. Tumors, weighing from 0.1 to 8.3 mg, appeared from 2 to 4.5 weeks after infection. The majority of tumors tested for opine synthesis by high-voltage paper electrophoresis analysis showed positive results. These results demonstrate that diploid strawberry plants are susceptible to infection with Agrobacterium and that there are differences in the relative virulence of Agrobacterium strains.

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Matthew A. Escobar, Andrew Shilling, Pine Higgins, Sandra L. Uratsu and Abhaya M. Dandekar

The enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) is nearly ubiquitous in Kingdom Plantae and catalyzes the oxidation of phenolic compounds into highly reactive quinones. Although the functional importance of PPO in plants remains uncertain, a putative antipathogen role for walnut (Juglans regia) PPO was posited as early as 1911. However, despite the rich diversity of phenolics present in walnut leaves and hulls, walnut PPO has been little studied since the early 1900s. We cloned a PPO-encoding gene from a walnut pistillate flower cDNA library and designated the gene jrPPO1. Genomic Southern analysis demonstrated that jrPPO1 is the sole PPO gene in walnut. Transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) plants expressing jrPPO1 display greater than 10-fold increases in leaf PPO activity compared with wild-type tobacco, demonstrating that jrPPO1 encodes a functional enzyme. The jrPPO1 protein is expressed primarily in the leaves, hulls, and flowers of walnut trees and is not regulated by wounding or methyl jasmonate. To examine whether walnut PPO could affect pathogen resistance, tobacco plants expressing jrPPO1 were challenged with Pseudomonas syringae pv. tabaci. Based on both symptom development and quantitative analyses of bacterial growth in planta, the PPO-expressing plants did not display increased resistance to this pathogen. Leaf extract browning assays indicated that tobacco leaves lack the endogenous phenolic substrates required for significant jrPPO1 activity and quinone production in planta.

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Ryutaro Tao, Abhaya M. Dandekar, Sandra L. Uratsu, Patrick V. Vail and J. Steven Tebbets

Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki L. `Jiro') was transformed using a disarmed strain of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, EHA101, carrying the binary plasmid vector, pDU92.710. The T-DNA region of pDU92.710 contained the kanamycin resistance gene (nptII), the β-glucuronidase gene (uidA), and a synthetic reconstruct of cryIA(c) encoding the insecticidal crystal protein fragment of Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki HD-73. Leaf discs made from leaves of shoot cultures were cocultivated with Agrobacterium and cultured on a callus-induction medium containing kanamycin and cefotaxime. Among 720 infected leaf discs, 17 putative transformed callus lines showing kanamycin resistance were obtained after 8 weeks of culture. When these were cultured on a regeneration medium containing kanamycin, 15 formed adventitious buds. Of the 15 shoot lines, 11 grew well on a shoot-proliferation medium containing kanamycin, while 4 lines did not grow well. Of the 11 shoot lines, 10 showed GUS activities by fluorometric assay and were subjected to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and Southern analyses. Except for two lines, all results were consistent with a stable integration of T-DNA into the persimmon genome. The production of CryIA(c) protein in transformed shoot lines was confirmed with Western analysis using anti-CryIA(c) serum. Insect bioassays were conducted with 10 lines showing GUS activity. Many of these lines showed high significant mortality of the test insects, Plodia interpunctella Hüber and Monema flavescens Walker, when compared to nontransformed controls.

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Fatemeh Khodadadi, Masoud Tohidfar, Mehdi Mohayeji, Abhaya M. Dandekar, Charles A. Leslie, Daniel A. Kluepfel, Timothy Butterfield and Kourosh Vahdati

Plants respond to pathogens with both active and passive defense mechanisms. These defense responses include the induction of defense or defense-related genes such as polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins. The role of PPO in the interaction between bacterial blight [Xanthomonas arboricola pv. juglandis (Xaj)] and walnut (Juglans regia) was studied. JrPPO-1 and P14a genes were identified in two walnut cultivars, Chandler and Serr, using standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to understand their inducible ability in response to Xaj. ‘Serr’ and ‘Chandler’ were inoculated with Xaj strain 417. PPO activity in leaves was assayed at 0, 24, 72, 96, 120, and 144 hours after inoculation. Results showed a steady increase in activity commencing within 24 hours of inoculation. Increase in PPO activity was close to 2-fold greater in ‘Chandler’ than in ‘Serr’ at all time points examined. Real-time PCR analysis showed differences between cultivars in PPO gene expression. The JrPPO-1 gene was highly expressed in both cultivars 24 hours after inoculation but expression in ‘Serr’ was much greater than in ‘Chandler’. Significant expression of P14a gene was observed in both cultivars within 24 hours. Expression in ‘Serr’ was strong and maximized with a significant increase at 96 hours. Expression in ‘Chandler’ was far weaker than ‘Serr’ at 24 hours and did not increase further. Our results imply that the walnut–bacterial blight interaction induces the expression of JrPPO-1 and P14a as well as the activity of PPO.

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Toshio Hanada, Kyoko Fukuta, Hisayo Yamane, Tomoya Esumi, Ryutaro Tao, Thomas M. Gradziel, Abhaya M. Dandekar, Ángel Fernández i Martí, José M. Alonso and Rafel Socias i Company

Most of the self-compatible (SC) cultivars of almond [Prunus dulcis (Mill.) D.A. Webb. syn. P. amygdalus Batsch] have the Sf haplotype. In this study, we cloned and characterized the S locus region of the Sf haplotype of SC ‘Lauranne’. The relative transcriptional orientation of SFBf and Sf-RNase and the physical distance between them are similar to those of other functional self-incompatible (SI) S haplotypes of Prunus, indicating that the genomic structure of the SC Sf haplotype appears to be intact. Although there is no apparent mutation in the coding sequence of SFBf, the Sf-RNase sequence in this study and previously reported Sf-RNase sequences show discrepancies. First, as opposed to previous indications, the ‘Lauranne’ Sf-RNase sequence encodes a histidine residue in place of a previously reported arginine residue in the conserved C2 region of Prunus S-RNase. Direct sequencing of the polymerase chain reaction products from the Sf-RNase of ‘Tuono’ confirmed that ‘Tuono’ Sf-RNase also encodes the histidine residue. We found another difference in the ‘Lauranne’ Sf-RNase sequence and other reported Sf-RNase sequences. Namely, ‘Lauranne’ Sf-RNase encodes a phenylalanine residue in place of a previously reported leucine residue in the conserved C5 region of Prunus S-RNase. This is also the case for ‘Tuono’ Sf-RNase. Expression analysis of Sf-RNase and SFBf by reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction showed that Sf-RNase transcripts were barely detectable in pistil, whereas SFBf transcripts were accumulated at a similar level to the level that was observed with SFB of other functional SI S haplotypes of almond. We discuss the possible molecular mechanisms of SC observed with the Sf haplotype with special references to the expression of Sf-RNase.

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Kourosh Vahdati, James R. McKenna, Abhaya M. Dandekar, Charles A. Leslie, Sandie L. Uratsu, Wesley P. Hackett, Paola Negri and Gale H. McGranahan

Walnuts (Juglans spp.) are difficult-to-root woody plants. The rolABC genes (rolA + rolB + rolC), derived from the bacteria Agrobacterium rhizogenes, have been shown to increase the rooting potential of other difficult-to-root woody plants. We inserted the rolABC genes into somatic embryos of a `Paradox' hybrid (J. hindsii × J. regia) clone PX1 using the A. tumefaciens gene transfer system. A transgenic sub-clone, designated PX1 rolABC 2-2 was selected and compared to the untransformed clone for a variety of phenotypic characteristics, including rooting potential. Transformed and untransformed shoots were budded onto seedling J. regia rootstock in the greenhouse and established in the field. Transformed trees displayed reduced internode length, an increase in lateral branching, and wrinkled leaves. In another test, a commercial persian walnut cultivar J. regia `Chandler' was grafted onto rooted cuttings of both the untransformed and transformed plants. The presence of the rolABC genes in the rootstock had no visible effects on the grafted scion. Several of these trees were excavated from the field and the root systems of each genotype were examined for root number, diameter, and biomass. Trees with the rolABC rootstock had significantly more small diameter roots compared to the controls and less recovered biomass. Tests of the rooting potential of leafy semi-hardwood cuttings for two years resulted in 14% to 59% rooting of the transformed cuttings compared to 51% to 81% rooting of the control. Both transformed hardwood cuttings and microshoots in tissue culture also rooted significantly less (52% and 29% respectively) than untransformed hardwood cuttings and tissue cultured shoots (82% and 54% respectively). Thus, although the rolABC genes induced a shorter internode length and a more fibrous root system (typical of rol-tranformed plants), they were not useful for increasing the rooting potential, and as rootstock they did not affect the phenotype of the scion.