HCS gradute students, Yiyun Lin, Katie D'Amico, and Matthew Willman won at the CFAES Annual Research Conference Poster Competition on April 22, 2019.
1st place in Doctorate category
Flower longevity is an important characteristic of floriculture crops. When flowers senesce, ornamental plants lose their aesthetic and economic value. However, the regulatory mechanisms involved in flower petal senescence are complex and not well understood. Although nutrient mobilization is considered important in the regulation of flower petal senescence, there is a lack of genetic evidence to substantiate the roles of nutrient mobilization-related genes during this process. A recent transcriptomic study of Petunia × hybrida corollas identified nutrient mobilization-related autophagy and nuclease genes that are differentially regulated during petal senescence. We hypothesized that altering the expression level of nutrient mobilization-related genes will decrease flower longevity and affect other flower features. To test this hypothesis, individual genes were knocked down using virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) in Petunia × hybrida ‘Picobella Blue’. Our results indicate that the knockdown of Petunia Endonuclease 1 (PhNUC1) resulted in delayed flowering and early senescence. For the autophagy genes tested, our results show that the knockdown of Autophagy Gene 8d (PhATG8d) induced delayed flowering time, the knockdown of Autophagy Gene 6 (PhATG6) resulted in early flower senescence and lower total flower dry weight, and knocking down Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PhPI3K) gene caused reduced flower dry weight in petunia. The genes identified in this study will be further tested using stable genetic engineering and genome editing. The results of this project will be fundamental for future studies of flower petal senescence and will provide genetic information for future floriculture crop improvement.
2nd place in the Doctorate categroy.
The research presented in my CFAES conference poster is part of a larger project examining the genetic mechanisms underlying non-infectious bud-failure exhibition in almond. Almond is a valuable U.S. nut crop and incidence of bud-failure negatively impacts yield, affecting both growers and consumers. The goal of our project is to identify predictive biomarkers that can be used by almond producers to screen almond germplasm for bud-failure potential. My poster highlights an experiment profiling two sets of identical twin almond trees where one twin in each set exhibits bud-failure while the other twin remains bud-failure free. We are specifically interested in identifying differences in DNA methylation, a specific type of epigenetic alteration that is hypothesized to play a role in bud-failure exhibition. After generating the DNA methylation profiles for each twin, I compared those profiles to identify regions of differential methylation between twins with bud-failure and those that are bud-failure free. Based on this work, I was able to locate several regions of differential methylation that contain or are near-to genes of interest. These genes may contribute to bud-failure exhibition, and the DNA methylation profiles could potentially be used as predictive biomarkers of bud-failure exhibition.
3rd place in the Masters category.
Genetic mapping of pomological traits is limited for black raspberry (BR) and small fruit crops in general. In this study, data produced from a multiple-environment trial of two BR mapping populations were used to estimate quantitative trait loci and define genotype-by-environment interactions for BR fruit quality traits. Findings are expected to guide further genetic characterization of fruit quality, management of breeding germplasm, and development of improved BR cultivars for U.S. production.