BCBC Research

Current Projects

A Solanum lycopersicoides reference genome provides resources for tomato research

Wild relatives of tomato are a valuable source of natural variation in tomato breeding, as many can be hybridized to the cultivated species (Solanum lycopersicum). BTI and RWTH Aachen University have generated a chromosome scale genome assembly for an accession of Solanum lycopersicoides LA2951 using PacBio sequencing. The genome sequence will support the development of S. lycopersicoides as a model for studying genome evolution, as well as for assessing fruit nutrient/quality traits, pathogen resistance, and environmental stress tolerance that we have identified in the IL population.

Exploring native plant diversity

The genus Aconitum comprises ca. 250 species of herbaceous perennial plants that inhabit temperate montane regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They are prominent members of many alpine and mountain meadow ecosystems, and their nectar, pollen and foliage provide food for insects ranging from butterflies to bumblebees. Aconite, a powerful alkaloid toxin derived from leaves and rhizomes of various Aconitum species, dates back to early Greek and Roman pharmacopeia and continues to be used in traditional European, Ayurveda, and Chinese medicine. Extracts from roots and rhizomes are reported for use as arrow poisons for hunting and/or warfare in communities across India, Tibet, Japan and Alaska. Over-harvesting of local populations for medicinal use has left many species endangered. Six Aconitum species are native to North America and one, Aconitum noveboracense, is federally classified as threatened with only a few small populations remaining in four US states, including New York. BTI in collaboration with US Fish & Wildlife Service are creating a draft reference genome for Aconitum noveboracense. This genome will provide the basis for comparative genomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses that will allow us to investigate the biogeography and population dynamics of local species, to determine population-level genetic diversity and gene flow patterns important to conservation initiatives, and to investigate the function and diversity of major medicinal metabolites in North American species of Aconitum.

Developing tools to inform woodlot management to control Beech Bark Disease

Beech (Fagus grandifolia) is a keystone tree species in many North American ecosystems, but is currently being devastated by Beech Bark Disease (BBD). We aim to develop a precision forestry paradigm that will aid beech management. First, we will use state-of-the-art genomic tools to identify genetic markers that can reliably predict disease-susceptible vs -resistant trees. Next, we will apply these markers to inform woodlot management by initiating a series of field trial experiments. The tools and resources gained from our work will be promoted in educational workshops created for landowners and forest managers. Our collaborative team includes members with complementary expertise in forest management, silviculture, and genomics that will use innovative approaches to combat BBD.

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