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Joseph C. Kuhl and Veronica L. DeBoer

The genus Rheum L., commonly known as rhubarb, is composed of ≈60 species, primarily distributed throughout northern and central Asia. Rhubarb species have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years; however, it was not until the 18th century that the culinary use of petioles was first reported. Although the origin(s) of culinary rhubarb is not clear, it is thought that they originated from hybridization of rhubarb species originally brought to Europe for medicinal purposes. Most rhubarb cultivars lack pedigree information, and the genetic relationship among cultivars is largely unknown. Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers were generated for fingerprint analysis of 37 cultivars and four putative Rheum species accessions. Ten EcoRI and MseI primer combinations were analyzed for a total of 1400 scored polymorphisms, with an average of 140 polymorphisms per primer combination. Results show at least two clusters of related cultivars, as well as distantly related accessions. This study provides an estimate of rhubarb cultivar genetic diversity using AFLP analysis.

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Joseph C. Kuhl, Kelly Zarka, Joseph Coombs, William W. Kirk and David S. Douches

Late blight of potato (Solanum tuberosum L.), incited by Phytophthora infestans (Mont.) de Bary, is a devastating disease affecting tuber yield and storage. Recent work has isolated a resistance gene, RB, from the wild species Solanum bulbocastanum Dun. Earlier work in Toluca, Mexico, observed significant levels of field resistance under intense disease pressure in a somatic hybrid containing RB. In this study, five transgenic RB lines were recovered from the late blight susceptible line MSE149-5Y, from the Michigan State University (MSU) potato breeding program. Transgenic lines were molecularly characterized for the RB transgene, RB transcript, and insertion number of the kanamycin resistance gene NPTII. Transgenic lines and the parent line were evaluated for resistance in field and laboratory tests. Molecular characterization alone did not predict which lines were resistant. Three of the RB transformed MSE149-5Y lines showed increased resistance under field conditions at MSU and increased resistance in detached leaf evaluations using multiple isolates individually (US-1, US-1.7, US-8, US-10, and US-14). Transfer of RB into late blight susceptible and resistant lines could provide increased protection to potato late blight. The use of the RB gene for transformation in this way creates a partially cisgenic event in potato because the gene's native promoter and terminator are used. This type of transformation provides a chance to generate greater public acceptance of engineered approaches to trait introgression in food crops.