The isolation, characterization, and application of WRKY genes as useful molecular markers in tropical trees

James William Borrone, Florida International University


The improvement of tropical tree crops using conventional breeding methods faces challenges due to the length of time involved. Thus, like most crops, there is an effort to utilize molecular genetic markers in breeding programs to select for desirable agronomic traits. Known as marker assisted breeding or marker assisted selection, genetic markers associated with a phenotype of interest are used to screen and select material reducing the time necessary to evaluate candidates. As the focus of this research was improving disease resistance in tropical trees, the usefulness of the WRKY gene superfamily was investigated as candidates for generating useful molecular genetic markers. WRKY genes encode plant-specific transcriptional factors associated with regulating plants' responses to both biotic and abiotic stress. One pair of degenerate primers amplified 48 WRKY gene fragments from three taxonomically distinct, economically important, tropical tree crop species: 18 from Theobroma cacao L., 21 from Cocos nucifera L. and 9 from Persea americana Mill. Several loci from each species were polymorphic because of single nucleotide substitutions present within a putative non-coding region of the loci. Capillary array electrophoresis-single strand conformational polymorphism (CAE-SSCP) mapped four WRKY loci onto a genetic linkage map of a T. cacao F2 population segregating for resistance to witches' broom disease. Additionally, PCR primers specific for four T. cacao loci successfully amplified WRKY loci from 15 members of the Byttneriae tribe. A method was devised to allow the reliable discrimination of alleles by CAE-SSCP using only the mobility assigned to the sample peaks. Once this method was validated, the diversity of three WRKY loci was evaluated in a germplasm collection of T. cacao . One locus displayed high diversity in the collection, with at least 18 alleles detected from mobility differences of the product peaks. The number of WRKY loci available within the genome, ease of isolation by degenerate PCR, codominant segregation demonstrated in the F2 population, and usefulness for screening germplasm collections and closely related wild species demonstrates that the WRKY superfamily of genes are excellent candidates for developing a number of genetic molecular markers for breeding purposes in tropical trees.

Subject Area

Genetics|Molecular biology|Plant pathology

Recommended Citation

Borrone, James William, "The isolation, characterization, and application of WRKY genes as useful molecular markers in tropical trees" (2004). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3131107.