Researchers gain new insight about bacteria within grapevine-killing crown gall tumors
RIT faculty and alumni helped complete international study mapping the tumor’s microbiota
Scientists have mapped the DNA of bacteria found within a chronic disease affecting grapevines, a feat they hope will ultimately help protect the multibillion-dollar grape industry that produces juice, jelly, wine and other important products.
Researchers including several Rochester Institute of Technology faculty and alumni sequenced the microbiome found within tumors of grapevines afflicted with crown gall disease. The study spanned four continents and sheds light on the complex interaction between the grapevine and its microbial community, which could lead to better management of the crown gall disease in the future.
“The research is important given that the Finger Lakes region is such a large producer of wine,” said Professor André Hudson, head of RIT’s Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences. “Crown gall disease is caused by the plant pathogen Allorhizobium vitis and is one of the most debilitating diseases of grapes that impacts production and quality.”
The disease occurs when bacteria infect grapevines at the crown of the plant, where the root and the shoot meet.
“Bacteria transfer genes into the cells of the grapevine at the crown of the plant,” explained Michael Savka, professor at RIT’s Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences. “The piece of DNA that’s transferred into the grape cells basically encodes enzymes that allow for the plant cells to overproduce two hormones. Unregulated production of these two hormones leads to the crown gall tumor, a chronic disease that degrades the vigor of the plant.”
The international team of researchers conducted next-generation DNA sequencing of 73 tumor samples taken from grapevines from as close as Geneva, N.Y., and as far as Hungary, Tunisia and Japan. Han Ming Gan ’08 (biotechnology), a senior research fellow in genomics at Deakin University, said the study provides researchers a database that can be used to assess the disease stage of crown gall tumors in the future. The fundamental research can pave the way for more advances to combat the disease.
“Moving forward, what would be nice is to look at the functional aspect that can be attained using whole metagenome sequencing,” said Gan. “So far, the information that we obtained is on the ‘who’ but not the ‘how.’ In other words, we know which bacteria are in the galls but not what they are capable of doing.”
The study is the latest in RIT’s expanding portfolio of research in genomics. The full study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, is available at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2019.01896/full.
September 16, 2019
RIT and Genesee Country Village & Museum seal partnership with $1.3 million gift
RIT has received a $1.3 million gift to endow its partnership between the university and Genesee Country Village & Museum. The gift comes from RIT alumnus Philip Wehrheim and his wife, Anne. Wehrheim received a degree in business from RIT in 1966.
September 13, 2019
How a person vapes, not just what a person vapes, could also play a big role in vaping harm
Essay by Risa Robinson, professor and department chair, mechanical engineering, published by The Conversation.
September 13, 2019
RIT Sponsored Research garners $74 million in funding
RIT had its second best year ever in sponsored research funding and a record year for research expenditures in fiscal year 2019. RIT received 366 new awards totaling $74 million in funding, and expenditures grew to $61 million.
September 12, 2019
Scientists developing single photon detector to help search for habitable exoplanets
NASA announced it is awarding a team of researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College a grant to develop a detector capable of sensing and counting single photons that could be crucial to future NASA astrophysics missions. The extremely sensitive detector would allow scientists to see the faintest observable objects in space, such as Earth-like planets around other stars.