Molecular markers for tolerance of European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) to dieback disease identified using Associative Transcriptomics.
ABSTRACT: Tree disease epidemics are a global problem, impacting food security, biodiversity and national economies. The potential for conservation and breeding in trees is hampered by complex genomes and long lifecycles, with most species lacking genomic resources. The European Ash tree Fraxinus excelsior is being devastated by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which causes ash dieback disease. Taking this system as an example and utilizing Associative Transcriptomics for the first time in a plant pathology study, we discovered gene sequence and gene expression variants across a genetic diversity panel scored for disease symptoms and identified markers strongly associated with canopy damage in infected trees. Using these markers we predicted phenotypes in a test panel of unrelated trees, successfully identifying individuals with a low level of susceptibility to the disease. Co-expression analysis suggested that pre-priming of defence responses may underlie reduced susceptibility to ash dieback.
Project description:Determining the impacts of invasive pathogens on tree mortality and growth is a difficult task, in particular in the case of species occurring naturally at low frequencies in mixed stands. In this study, we quantify such effects by comparing national forest inventory data collected before and after pathogen invasion. In Norway, Fraxinus excelsior is a minor species representing less than 1% of the trees in the forests and being attacked by the invasive pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus since 2006. By studying deviations between inventories, we estimated a 74% higher-than-expected average ash mortality and a 13% slower-than-expected growth of the surviving ash trees, indicating a lack of compensation by the remaining ash. We could confidently assign mortality and growth losses to ash dieback as no mortality or growth shifts were observed for co-occurring tree species in the same plots. The mortality comparisons also show regional patterns with higher mortality in areas with the longest disease history in Norway. Considering that ash is currently mostly growing in mixed forests and that no signs of compensation were observed by the surviving ash trees, a significant habitat loss and niche replacement could be anticipated in the mid-term.
Project description:Ash dieback (ADB), caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, has severely damaged a large proportion of ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) in continental Europe. We have little damage data for the British Isles where the disease was found only five years ago in the Southeast, and is still spreading. A large-scale screening trial to evaluate ADB damage to provenances of F. excelsior sourced from throughout the British Isles was planted in 2013 in the southeast of England. In 2016, we scored trees by their level of ADB damage observed in field at the two worst affected (based on assessments in 2015) of the 14 sites. Significant differences were found in average ADB damage among planting sites and seed source provenances. Trees from certain provenances in Scotland were the least damaged by ADB, whereas trees from Wales and Southeast England were the most badly damaged in both trial sites. Thus the levels of ADB damage currently seen in ash populations in Southeast England may not be an accurate predictor of the damage expected in future throughout the British Isles. Given all provenances contained some healthy trees, a breeding programme to produce genetically variable native ash tree populations with lower ADB susceptibility may be feasible.
Project description:Gene flow dynamics of common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) is affected by several human activities in Central Europe, including habitat fragmentation, agroforestry expansion, controlled and uncontrolled transfer of reproductive material, and a recently introduced emerging infectious disease, ash dieback, caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. Habitat fragmentation may alter genetic connectivity and effective population size, leading to loss of genetic diversity and increased inbreeding in ash populations. Gene flow from cultivated trees in landscapes close to their native counterparts may also influence the adaptability of future generations. The devastating effects of ash dieback have already been observed in both natural and managed populations in continental Europe. However, potential long-term effects of genetic bottlenecks depend on gene flow across fragmented landscapes. For this reason, we studied the genetic connectivity of ash trees in an isolated forest patch of a fragmented landscape in Rösenbeck, Germany. We applied two approaches to parentage analysis to estimate gene flow patterns at the study site. We specifically investigated the presence of background pollination at the landscape level and the degree of genetic isolation between native and cultivated trees. Local meteorological data was utilized to understand the effect of wind on the pollen and seed dispersal patterns. Gender information of the adult trees was considered for calculating the dispersal distances. We found that the majority of the studied seeds (55-64%) and seedlings (75-98%) in the forest patch were fathered and mothered by the trees within the same patch. However, we determined a considerable amount of pollen flow (26-45%) from outside of the study site, representing background pollination at the landscape level. Limited pollen flow was observed from neighbouring cultivated trees (2%). Both pollen and seeds were dispersed in all directions in accordance with the local wind directions. Whereas there was no positive correlation between pollen dispersal distance and wind speed, the correlation between seed dispersal distance and wind speed was significant (0.71, p < 0.001), indicating that strong wind favours long-distance dispersal of ash seeds. Finally, we discussed the implications of establishing gene conservation stands and the use of enrichment planting in the face of ash dieback.
Project description:At least 10% of the world's tree species are threatened with extinction and pathogens are increasingly implicated in tree threats. Coextinction and threats to affiliates as a consequence of the loss or decline of their host trees is a poorly understood phenomenon. Ash dieback is an emerging infectious disease causing severe dieback of common ash Fraxinus excelsior throughout Europe. We utilized available empirical data on affiliate epiphytic lichen diversity (174 species and 17,800 observations) among 20 ash dieback infected host tree populations of F. excelsior on the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea, Sweden. From this, we used structured scenario projections scaled with empirical data of ash dieback disease to generate probabilistic models for estimating local and regional lichen coextinction risks. Average coextinction probabilities (?) were 0.38 (95% CI ± 0.09) for lichens occurring on F. excelsior and 0.14 (95% CI ± 0.03) when considering lichen persistence on all tree species. ? was strongly linked to local disease incidence levels and generally increasing with lichen host specificity to F. excelsior and decreasing population size. Coextinctions reduced affiliate community viability, with significant local reductions in species richness and shifts in lichen species composition. Affiliates were projected to become locally extirpated before their hosts, illuminating the need to also consider host tree declines. Traditionally managed open wooded meadows had the highest incidence of ash dieback disease and significantly higher proportions of affiliate species projected to go extinct, compared with unmanaged closed forests and semi-open grazed sites. Most cothreatened species were not previously red-listed, which suggest that tree epidemics cause many unforeseen threats to species. Our analysis shows that epidemic tree deaths represent an insidious, mostly overlooked, threat to sessile affiliate communities in forested environments. Current conservation and management strategies must account for secondary extinctions associated with epidemic tree death.
Project description:The European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is threatened by the introduced ascomycete Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the causal agent of ash dieback. Endophytic fungi are known to modulate their host's resistance against pathogens. To understand possible consequences of ash dieback on the endophytic mycobiome, F. excelsior leaves were collected in naturally regenerated forests and the fungal communities analyzed by classic culture and Illumina amplicon sequencing using a newly developed and validated fungal-specific primer. Collections were done in the area infested by ash dieback north of the Alps, and in the disease free area on the south side. Sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) was additionally collected, as well as the flowering ash (F. ornus), which occurs naturally in the south and shows tolerance to ash dieback. Both cultivation and amplicon sequencing revealed characteristic endophytic fungal communities dominated by several strictly host specific Venturia species. On A. pseudoplatanus, a hitherto undescribed Venturia species was identified. Due to its dominance on F. excelsior, V. fraxini is unlikely to go extinct in case of reduced host densities. A majority of species was not strictly host specific and is therefore likely less affected by ash dieback in the future. Still, shifts in community structure and loss of genetic diversity cannot be excluded. The potentially endangered endophyte Hymenoscyphus albidus was rarely found. In addition to host specificity, species with preferences for leaf laminae or petioles were found. We also detected considerable geographical variation between sampling sites and clear differences between the two sides of the Alps for endophytes of F. excelsior, but not A. pseudoplatanus. Since sycamore maple is not affected by an epidemic, this could point toward an influence of ash dieback on ash communities, although firm conclusions are not possible because of host preferences and climatic differences. Furthermore, the mycobiota of F. excelsior trees with or without dieback symptoms were compared, but no clear differences were detected. Besides methodical refinement, our study provides comprehensive data on the ash mycobiome that we expect to be subject to changes caused by an emerging disease of the host tree.
Project description:BACKGROUND:With the expanding ash dieback epidemic that has spread across the European continent, an improved functional understanding of the disease development in afflicted hosts is needed. The study investigated whether differences in necrosis extension between common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) trees with different levels of susceptibility to the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus are associated with, and can be explained by, the differences in gene expression patterns. We inoculated seemingly healthy branches of each of two resistant and susceptible ash genotypes with H. fraxineus grown in a common garden. RESULTS:Ten months after the inoculation, the length of necrosis on the resistant genotypes were shorter than on the susceptible genotypes. RNA sequencing of bark samples collected at the border of necrotic lesions and from healthy tissues distal to the lesion revealed relatively limited differences in gene expression patterns between susceptible and resistant genotypes. At the necrosis front, only 138 transcripts were differentially expressed between the genotype categories while 1082 were differentially expressed in distal, non-symptomatic tissues. Among these differentially expressed genes, several genes in the mevalonate (MVA) and iridoid pathways were found to be co-regulated, possibly indicating increased fluxes through these pathways in response to H. fraxineus. Comparison of transcriptional responses of symptomatic and non-symptomatic ash in a controlled greenhouse experiment revealed a relatively small set of genes that were differentially and concordantly expressed in both studies. This gene-set included the rate-limiting enzyme in the MVA pathway and a number of transcription factors. Furthermore, several of the concordantly expressed candidate genes show significant similarity to genes encoding players in the abscisic acid- or Jasmonate-signalling pathways. CONCLUSIONS:A set of candidate genes, concordantly expressed between field and greenhouse experiments, was identified. The candidates are associated with hormone signalling and specialized metabolite biosynthesis pathways indicating the involvement of these pathways in the response of the host to infection by H. fraxineus.
Project description:Populations of European ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) are being devastated by the invasive alien fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which causes ash dieback. We sequenced whole genomic DNA from 1,250 ash trees in 31 DNA pools, each pool containing trees with the same ash dieback damage status in a screening trial and from the same seed-source zone. A genome-wide association study identified 3,149 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with low versus high ash dieback damage. Sixty-one of the 192 most significant SNPs were in, or close to, genes with putative homologues already known to be involved in pathogen responses in other plant species. We also used the pooled sequence data to train a genomic prediction model, cross-validated using individual whole genome sequence data generated for 75 healthy and 75 damaged trees from a single seed source. The model's genomic estimated breeding values (GEBVs) allocated these 150 trees to their observed health statuses with 67% accuracy using 10,000 SNPs. Using the top 20% of GEBVs from just 200 SNPs, we could predict observed tree health with over 90% accuracy. We infer that ash dieback resistance in F. excelsior is a polygenic trait that should respond well to both natural selection and breeding, which could be accelerated using genomic prediction.
Project description:Accelerating international trade and climate change make pathogen spread an increasing concern. Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the causal agent of ash dieback, is a fungal pathogen that has been moving across continents and hosts from Asian to European ash. Most European common ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) are highly susceptible to H.?fraxineus, although a minority (~5%) have partial resistance to dieback. Here, we assemble and annotate a H.?fraxineus draft genome, which approaches chromosome scale. Pathogen genetic diversity across Europe and in Japan, reveals a strong bottleneck in Europe, though a signal of adaptive diversity remains in key host interaction genes. We find that the European population was founded by two divergent haploid individuals. Divergence between these haplotypes represents the ancestral polymorphism within a large source population. Subsequent introduction from this source would greatly increase adaptive potential of the pathogen. Thus, further introgression of H.?fraxineus into Europe represents a potential threat and Europe-wide biological security measures are needed to manage this disease.
Project description:Beyond the direct influence of climate change on species distribution and phenology, indirect effects may also arise from perturbations in species interactions. Infectious diseases are strong biotic forces that can precipitate population declines and lead to biodiversity loss. It has been shown in forest ecosystems worldwide that at least 10% of trees are vulnerable to extinction and pathogens are increasingly implicated. In Europe, the emerging ash dieback disease caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, commonly called Chalara fraxinea, is causing a severe mortality of common ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior); this is raising concerns for the persistence of this widespread tree, which is both a key component of forest ecosystems and economically important for timber production. Here, we show how the pathogen and climate change may interact to affect the future spatial distribution of the common ash. Using two presence-only models, seven General Circulation Models and four emission scenarios, we show that climate change, by affecting the host and the pathogen separately, may uncouple their spatial distribution to create a mismatch in species interaction and so a lowering of disease transmission. Consequently, as climate change expands the ranges of both species polewards it may alleviate the ash dieback crisis in southern and occidental regions at the same time.
Project description:BACKGROUND:European ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) are currently threatened by ash dieback (ADB) caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus but a small percentage of the population possesses natural low susceptibility. The genome of a European ash tree has recently been sequenced. Here, we present whole genome DNA methylation data for two F. excelsior genotypes with high susceptibility to ADB, and two genotypes with low susceptibility, each clonally replicated. We also include two genotypes of Manchurian ash (F. mandshurica), an ash species which has co-evolved with H. fraxineus and also has low susceptibility to ADB. RESULTS:In F. excelsior, we find an average methylation level of 76.2% in the CG context, 52.0% in the CHG context, and 13.9% in the CHH context; similar levels to those of tomato. We find higher methylation in transposable elements as opposed to non-mobile elements, and high densities of Non-Differentially Methylation Positions (N-DMPs) in genes with housekeeping functions. Of genes putatively duplicated in whole genome duplication (WGD) events, an average of 25.9% are differentially methylated in at least one cytosine context, potentially indicative of unequal silencing. Variability in methylation patterns exists among clonal replicates, and this is only slightly less than the variability found between different genotypes. Of twenty genes previously found to have expression levels associated with ADB susceptibility, we find only two of these have differential methylation between high and low susceptibility F. excelsior trees. In addition, we identify 1683 significant Differentially Methylated Regions (DMRs) (q-value<?0.001) between the high and low susceptibility genotypes of F. excelsior trees, of which 665 remain significant when F. mandshurica samples are added to the low susceptibility group. CONCLUSIONS:We find a higher frequency of differentially methylated WGD-derived gene duplicates in ash than other plant species previously studied. We also identify a set of genes with differential methylation between genotypes and species with high versus low susceptibility to ADB. This provides valuable foundational data for future work on the role that epigenetics may play in gene dosage compensation and susceptibility to ADB in ash.