“Determining the cause of host specificity of Xanthomonas vasicola pv. musacearum and Xanthamonas vasicola pv. vasculorum”
Bananas are a staple food important for subsistence and financial security in the East African Great Lakes Region. In the early 2000’s, a new pathogen, Xanthomonas vasicola pv. musacearum (Xvm), emerged causing the disease, Banana Xanthamonas Wilt, and devastating banana production. Symptoms include yellowing, wilting leaves, yellow bacterial ooze, and extreme yield loss. Xvm, like most Xanthomonas, has a type III secretion system to insert proteins called type III secreted effectors into plant host cells, where they interact with plant proteins to aid in bacterial pathogenicity. To better understand Xvm, the genome was compared to Xanthomonas vasicola pv. vasculorum (Xvv), a pathogen of corn, sugarcane, and sorghum, but not bananas. The only differences in known virulence factors between the two pathogens are three effector genes. Xvv has XopAF, that Xvm does not have, and Xvm has two YopJ-like effectors that Xvv does not. These effectors may be contributing to host specificity of Xvv and Xvm.
During this project, I maintained and propagated ~200 banana plants by making media with necessary nutrients and replanting banana plants using sterile technique. I also tested host specificity of Xvv and Xvm through virulence assays. I determined bananas were a host for Xvm, but not Xvv. Third, I cloned XopAF and the two YopJ-like effector genes into vectors that could be used to switch these genes between Xvv and Xvm. These vectors will be used to determine if placing the YopJ-like effector genes into Xvv and the XopAF gene into Xvm changes their host ranges.
Despite feeling elated to come to Cornell University to do research for the summer, I was not sure what to expect and definitely nervous because of my previously limited exposure to research. However, you will not meet a group of people more dedicated to their science, excited for each other’s successes, and willing to teach others than the people of the Bogdanove lab. I am so very grateful to all of my mentors for giving me an inside look at what it is like to work through a project, and for showing me the real passion and drive it takes to thrive in biological research through both the successes and failures. Whether or not I decide to continue in biological research, I will always be proud of my time as an intern and now have a diverse background in and an appreciation for the amazing work people in science do.