Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Food Quality Laboratory » Research » Research Project #423957

Research Project: Methods for Rapid Identification and Functional Analysis of Fungi Causing Postharvest Decay of Pome Fruit

Location: Food Quality Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-42430-014-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 16, 2013
End Date: Jul 4, 2017

Objective 1: Isolate and identify fungi causing postharvest decay of pome fruit from packinghouses that use different pest management programs and determine their levels of resistance to postharvest fungicides. [NP 303; C1, PS 1A] Sub-objective 1A: Determine the tolerance of Penicillium spp., causing blue mold of apples from conventional and organic packinghouses, to postharvest fungicides. Sub-objective 1B: Determine cultural, morphological, and molecular markers that distinguish species and strains of Penicillium that differ in virulence and their sensitivity to selected fungicides. Sub-objective 1C: Design a real-time PCR method for rapid and accurate detection of Penicillium spp. causing blue mold of apple. Objective 2: Design and construct a genetic transformation system for functional analysis of genes in fungi that cause postharvest decay of pome fruit. [NP 303; C2, PS 2A] Sub-objective 2A: Construct binary vectors containing selectable antibiotic resistance gene(s), and transform into Penicillium expansum using Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Sub-objective 2B: Determine the mitotic stability and cultural morphology of Penicillium expansum transformants carrying single and multiple antibiotic resistance genes in vitro. Sub-objective 2C: Assess virulence and morphology in apple fruit of Penicillium expansum transformant strains harboring selectable antibiotic resistance genes. Objective 3: Identify and characterize genes encoding components of pathways that effect pathogen growth or virulence in fungi causing postharvest decay of pome fruit. [NP 303; C2, PS 2A] Sub-objective 3A: Identify signaling pathways and characterize genes that potentially affect conidial germination in Penicillium expansum causing blue mold. Sub-objective 3B: Analyze the function of candidate genes involved in pathways that affect Penicillium expansum growth or virulence.

This research aims to devise innovative detection methods for Penicillium spp. and to identify new targets for control to reduce blue mold decay during storage. The project entails the characterization of Penicillium species obtained from decayed apple fruit from packinghouses that use different disease control strategies. Tolerance to postharvest fungicides will be determined, Penicillium isolates will be identified to species, and conserved gene sequences will be used to develop a rapid and accurate detection method. This information will assist in management decisions that will guide the selection and use of postharvest fungicides. A transformation system will be developed to evaluate virulence gene function in Penicillium expansum. Transformants will be evaluated for aberrations in conidial germination and fungal virulence and genetic analyses will be implemented to uncover novel virulence-related genes. This research is anticipated to provide a pioneering method to analyze gene function while concomitantly uncovering new genes involved in fungal virulence that will serve as specific targets for decay control. Inhibitors and activators of highly conserved signaling pathways will be used to unveil additional genes involved in conidial morphogenesis and fungal virulence in Penicillium spp. A targeted functional genetic analysis of gene candidates will provide new information regarding the mechanisms controlling fungal virulence and conidial germination which may be used to develop targeted decay control strategies.