Generation of composite Persea americana (Mill.) (avocado) plants : a proof-of-concept study

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 15
  • Abstract:

    Phytophthora Root Rot in areas where the pathogen is prevalent. However, advances in molecular research are hindered by the lack of a high-throughput transient transformation system in this non-model plant. In this study, a proof-of-concept is demonstrated by the successful application of Agrobacterium rhizogenes-mediated plant transformation to produce composite avocado plants. Two ex vitro strategies were assessed on two avocado genotypes (Itzamna and A0.74): In the first approach, 8-week-old etiolated seedlings were scarred with a sterile hacksaw blade at the base of the shoot, and in the second, inch-long incisions were made at the base of the shoot (20-week-old non-etiolated plants) with a sterile blade to remove the cortical tissue. The scarred/wounded shoot surfaces were treated with A. rhizogenes strains (K599 or ARqua1) transformed with or without binary plant transformation vectors pRedRootII (DsRed1 marker), pBYR2e1-GFP (GFP- green fluorescence protein marker) or pBINUbiGUSint (GUS- beta-glucuronidase marker) with and without rooting hormone (Dip 'N' Grow) application. The treated shoot regions were air-layered with sterile moist cocopeat to induce root formation. Results showed that hormone application significantly increased root induction, while Agrobacterium-only treatments resulted in very few roots. Combination treatments of hormone+Agrobacterium (-/+ plasmids) showed no significant difference. Only the ARqua1(+plasmid):A0.74 combination resulted in root transformants, with hormone+ARqua1(+pBINUbiGUSint) being the most effective treatment with ~17 and 25% composite plants resulting from strategy-1 and strategy-2, respectively. GUS and GFP-expressing roots accounted for less than 4 and ~11%, respectively, of the total roots/treatment/avocado genotype. The average number of transgenic roots on the composite plants was less than one per plant in all treatments. PCR and Southern analysis further confirmed the transgenic nature of the roots expressing the screenable marker genes. Transgenic roots showed hyper-branching compared to the wild-type roots but this had no impact on Phytophthora cinnamomi infection. There was no difference in pathogen load 7- days-post inoculation between transformed and control roots. Strategy-2 involving A0.74: ARqua1 combination was the best ex vitro approach in producing composite avocado plants. The approach followed in this proof-of-concept study needs further optimisation involving multiple avocado genotypes and A. rhizogenes strains to achieve enhanced root transformation efficiencies, which would then serve as an effective high-throughput tool in the functional screening of host and pathogen genes to improve our understanding of the avocado-P. cinnamomi interaction.