Fungi as Banana Pathogens

Symptoms of P. fijiensis, the causal agent of Black Sigatoka. From:

Symptoms of P. fijiensis, the causal agent of Black Sigatoka. From:  Image from APSnet.

Many of us like to consume bananas on a daily basis as dessert, flavoring or a healthy snack. However, over the last century bananas have had many disease issues stemming from fungal infections, which have altered the variety of bananas we consume in grocery stores. Recently Science Alert highlighted that the banana industry could be completely devastated by fungal diseases in less than 10 years from the lack of disease resistance in the clonal banana population. This concern spurred genome sequencing of Pseudocercospora fijiensis the causal agent for Black Sigatoka (an emerging fungal disease) to assist in developing productive fungicide management programs and breeding programs. Researchers found a secreted protein within the P. fijiensis genome, an effector homologus to Cladosporium fulvum Avr4, which enabled a differential response between resistant and susceptible banana varieties, and can be used as a bioassay to screen bananas for resistance in the future. Also, this study facilitated genetic marker development to dissect the pathogen population for fungicide resistance, and found nearly 100% of isolates from fungicide managed fields contained the makers for strobilurin resistance, indicating rapid fungal evolution and the need for resistant banana varieties. This research highlights the utilization of fungal genomics to generate potential for sustainable food production.

Arango Isaza RE, Diaz-Trujillo C, Dhillon B, Aerts A, Carlier J, Crane CF, et al. (2016) Combating a Global Threat to a Clonal Crop: Banana Black Sigatoka Pathogen Pseudocercospora fijiensis (Synonym Mycosphaerella fijiensis) Genomes Reveal Clues for Disease Control. PLoS Genet 12(8): e1005876. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005876

Macdonald F. 2016. Fungal disease could wipe out bananas in 5 to 10 years. Science Alert. Accessed October 12, 2016.


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