Ecology Colloquium Series - Mining Tropical Genetic Diversity to Improve Agricultural Crops
Noah Winters (Penn State)
Recent research suggests that microbial pathogens are key to maintaining multispecies coexistence in tropical forests. To advance knowledge of these plant-pathogen interactions, our lab has generated transcriptome data for six tree species, including information on intraspecific variation and signatures of diversifying selection at pathogen resistance (R) genes. Many of those R genes display trans-specific polymorphism, presumably from convergent evolution, wherein aligned sites have the same amino acid polymorphism in multiple species. Here, I show how those data are being used to identify potentially informative candidate genes in the agricultural tree Theobroma cacao. Cacao genes we identified as high quality candidates were amplified and sequenced from multiple cacao populations and genotypes to assess potentially useful genetic variation, which ultimately we will use in transient transfection assays to determine pathogen resistance phenotypes.