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Doctoral thesis, 2015

Genetic variation in resistance to fungal storage diseases in apple

Ahmadi-Afzadi, Masoud


Apple is one of the economically and culturally most important fruit crops and has many health-related benefits. Apple production is, however, sensitive to several fungal diseases including blue mold, caused by Penicillium expansum. Problems are more pronounced in organic production or in countries where postharvest application of fungicides is prohibited. To limit or overcome this problem, many studies have been focused on investigations of the mechanism of resistance/tolerance. No major gene(s) have as yet been identified, but quantitatively inherited traits, some of which are related to fruit texture and content of chemical compounds, have been shown to affect the ability of cultivars to withstand storage diseases. In the present thesis, inter-cultivar variation in terms of resistance to fungal storage diseases was investigated at two locations, i.e. Balsgård in Sweden and Njøs in Norway. The association of harvest date, fruit firmness and softening with lesion decay was investigated on large sets of cultivars. The contribution of four fruit texture-related genes (Md-ACO1, Md-ACS1, Md-Exp7 and Md-PG1) in explaining the fruit texture characteristics was examined. Fruit content of chemical compounds with a potential impact on disease resistance was also investigated, and finally the regulation of apple genes upon fungal infection was studied in order to identify candidate genes responsible for disease resistance. Inoculation-based screening indicated large variation across the investigated cultivars in terms of blue mold and bitter rot susceptibility. Harvest date and softening rate of fruits during storage had a large impact on resistance to fungal diseases, thus cultivars with moderate to firm fruits that soften comparatively little during storage could withstand the fungal infection comparatively well. Softening rate is, in its turn, closely associated with harvest date whereas four fruit texture-related genes had lower predictive power than expected. Quantifying the chemical compounds in the fruit samples revealed that some of these compounds, especially flavonols and procyanidin B2, could contribute to resistance against blue mold, whereas contents of malic acids or total titratable acidity had considerably less impact. Differential expression of FLS, LDOX, and CHS genes involved in biosynthesis of flavonoids and PGIP, TT10, WAK1 and CTL1 genes related to cell wall structure indicate the importance of fruit characteristics and biochemical compounds in the resistance mechanism.


cell wall; chemical contents; defense mechanism; fruit firmness; gene expression; microarray; polyphenols; qRT-PCR; quercetin

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2015, number: 2015:18
ISBN: 978-91-576-8234-5, eISBN: 978-91-576-8235-2
Publisher: Department of Plant Breeding, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Ahmadi-Afzadi, Masoud (Ahmadi-Afzadi, Masoud)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, VÄXTFÖRÄDLING, Box 101

UKÄ Subject classification

Plant Biotechnology
Genetics and Breeding

URI (permanent link to this page)