Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Molecular identification of pathogen-host relations on an example of Melampsora rusts in Slovenia

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
4.01.01  Biotechnical sciences  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Forest - forestry 

Code Science Field
B430  Biomedical sciences  Sylviculture, forestry, forestry technology 
rusts, Melampsora, forest, Barcoding, molecular phylogeny, scanning electron microscopy
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (1)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  25448  PhD Barbara Piškur  Forestry, wood and paper technology  Head  2014 - 2016  979 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0404  Slovenian Forestry Institute  Ljubljana  5051673000  12,051 
Rusts (Puccinales) are obligate biotrophs, representing one of the largest groups of plant pathogenic fungi and are one of the most economically important pathogens of many native and cultivated plants. Rusts are genetically extremely diverse fungal taxon, expressing different virulence groups at inter- and intraspecies level. Their life cycle is complex, requiring usually more than one host to be completed. The taxonomy and identification of rusts is notoriously difficult, and only the implementation of morphological and molecular data can reveal the correct taxonomic emplacement. The proposed postdoctoral project is connected to the field of forest protection and indirectly also to the broader field of plant health. The proposed project will be focused on the fungal group (rusts). Currently no institution or individuals are systematically dealing with this fungal group in Slovenia. Consecutively, the knowledge about rusts in Slovenia is undernourished, thus influencing the ability of Slovenia to fulfill the requirements of EU. Monitoring and inspection of quarantine organisms is namely required by EU legislation (Directive 2000/29/EC) and the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO). The A1 EPPO list comprises even 15 species of rusts, which were not yet introduced to Europe. With the proposed postdoctoral project we will focus on rusts from the Melampsora genus, which are in the world known as one of the most serious problems of willows (Salix) and poplars (Populus) but can also cause damaging infections on other tree species. The goals of the project are: 1) phylogenetic comparison and description of obtained rusts; 2) evaluation of the diversity and presence of Melampsora spp. in Slovenia and evaluation of their potential pathogenic risk; 3) initiation of a Barcoding system into rust identification in Slovenia and 4) evaluation of selected virulence genes.   To achieve these goals, morphological and molecular analyses of collected rust samples will be performed. Trees will be surveyed in natural habitats of some Melampsora hosts characterized by different altitudes and other ecological characteristics, short rotation coppices and in plantations. Morphology of rust’s structures will be examined with light and scanning electron microscopy. Molecular analyses will be conducted to perform a phylogenetic analysis of collected rusts and to confirm or supplement morphological identification. Genes encoding effectors will be screened among different rust species and populations. The proposed research will supplement knowledge about distribution and presence of some rust species in Europe. Comparison of characteristics of rust species, infecting endemites or relicts in isolated habitats, with related taxa will contribute to understanding the speciation processes. Proposed project includes a scientific collaboration with the research group at University of British Columbia. New methods and valuable knowledge from the field of molecular analyses and from the field of rusts will be gained and transferred in Slovenia. Gained knowledge of techniques and methodology for working with rusts will represent a basis for quick and accurate identification of rusts, not only those causing diseases on woody plants, but also those infecting crops and other economical relevant plants. The achievements of the candidate for the leader of the postdoctoral project that substantiate the realization of the project are in detail described under sections 8 and 9 of this project proposal.
Significance for science
Our project noticeably contributed to the knowledge about the diversity of rusts in Slovenia. Newly reported findings of rusts in Slovenia extend the knowledge of distribution and presence of rust species in Europe. We developed a program tool for analyzing (electron) micrographs, which importantly contributes to the performance of morphological analyses. New knowledge and methodologies from the field of bioinformatics were gained and implemented in the research and diagnostics in the field of forest protection.
Significance for the country
Project impact can be summarized into the following points: • project has promoted Slovenian know-how and successfully implemented new methodologies into local scientific and diagnostic milieu. Project ideas were presented at the university of Tübingen (Germany) and at international conferences. Through scientific collaborations with research groups in Austria and Germany new knowledge and experiences were transferred and implemented in Slovenia. • Project had an important role in education of human resources. Gained skills and know-how were transferred to an undergraduate student and a PhD. • New knowledge was successfully implemented into routine forest pathology work and with this fast and accurate recognition of quarantine organisms for forests and woody plants is enabled. As such, the project represents an important professional support for public administration and other stakeholders. • Project results are interesting for possible establishments of plantations of poplars or willows or bioenergy crops. • Our project is an important insight into biodiversity – it represents the first rust inventory on woody hosts in Slovenia.
Most important scientific results Annual report 2014, 2015, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Annual report 2014, 2015, final report
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