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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Assessment of fire blight tolerance in apple based on plant inoculations with Erwinia amylovora and DNA markers

Nybom Hilde, Mikicinski Artur, Gustavsson Larisa, Sehic Jasna, Lewandowski Mariusz, Sobiszewski Piotr


Fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) causes serious damage to pome fruit orchards, and identification of germplasm with heritable disease resistance is therefore crucial. Two dominant SCAR (sequence characterised amplified region) marker alleles (AE10-375 and GE-8019), flanking a previously identified QTL (quantitative trait locus) for resistance to fire blight on ‘Fiesta’ linkage group 7 in apple cultivars related to ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, were screened on 205 apple cultivars. Both marker alleles were present in 22% of the cultivars, indicating presence of the QTL allele for tolerance, and both were lacking in 25%, indicating homozygosity for absence of the QTL tolerance allele. However, 33% had only the marker allele AE10-375, while 20% had only GE-8019, suggesting that some cultivars with the dominant alleles for both of the flanking markers can carry these on separate chromosomes and may lack the QTL allele for tolerance. In 2009 and 2010, terminal shoots of greenhouse-grown grafted trees of 21 cultivars (only 20 in 2010) were inoculated with Erwinia amylovora. ‘Idared’ (susceptible) and ‘Enterprise’ (tolerant) were included as controls. Disease severity for each cultivar was expressed as percentage of necrosis in relation to entire length of shoot, and the ranking of cultivars in 2009 and 2010 was compared with a Spearman rank correlation test,P<0.01. A relationship between presence of both flanking marker alleles for tolerance and level of fire blight tolerance was confirmed with a Mann–Whitney U-test,P<0.01 in 2009, andP<0.05 in 2010. A PCO (principal coordinate) analysis based on band profiles obtained with 12 SSR (simple sequence repeat) loci produced three loose clusters, two of which contained known offspring of ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, and one with cultivars that were either unrelated or had an unknown origin. Cases where DNA markers did not predict level of fire blight damage as expected, were, however, as common among descendants of ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ as among apparently unrelated cultivars. Obviously the ‘Fiesta’ LG 7 QTL has some predictive value, both for known ‘Cox’ relatives and others, but more efficient markers would be desirable for marker-assisted selection.

Published in

Trees - Structure and Function
2012, Volume: 26, number: 1, pages: 199-213
Publisher: Springer