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Deciphering floral infection of blueberry pathogen Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi using comparative genomics and transcriptomics

Kamaldeep Bansal: University of Florida

<div><em>M</em>. <em>vaccinii-corymbosi</em> (Mvc) is a hemi-biotrophic fungus in the Sclerotiniaceae family that causes mummy berry disease on blueberries. Fruit infection is highly specialized as fungal conidia mimic pollen by germinating on stigma and growing in a directed manner towards the ovary. Fungal hyphae eventually colonize the developing berry first within the locules biotrophically, and then the mesocarp necrotrophically, to form mummies. Conidia of Mvc infect and mummify a limited number of <em>Vaccinium</em> species. Members of Sclerotiniaceae family however have varied host ranges, modes of infection and tissue specificities. For example, <em>Sclerotinia sclerotiorum</em> and <em>Botrytis cinerea</em> are necrotrophs with broad host ranges while species of <em>Monilinia </em>and <em>Ciborinia</em> may be necrotrophs or hemibiotrophs with restricted host ranges and tissue specificities. We hypothesize that Mvc secretes proteins to mimic pollen tracking of the stylar canal, to evade the blueberry defense machinery and to establish disease. Comparative genomics of Mvc with other flower-infecting Sclerotiniaceae fungi revealed different families of secreted proteins that may be involved in pollen mimicry and host specificity. Transcriptomic analysis of infected blueberry tissues showed that different families of secreted proteins were expressed differentially during stylar infection and fruit mummification. Ongoing research includes functional analyses to understand the role of identified genes in pathogenicity of Mvc.</div>