Large structural variations in the haplotype-resolved African cassava genome

Ben N. Mansfeld, Adam Boyher, Jeffrey C. Berry, Mark Wilson, Shujun Ou, Seth Polydore, Todd P. Michael, Noah Fahlgren, Rebecca S. Bart

assava (Manihot esculenta Crantz, 2n=36) is a global food security crop. Cassava has a highly heterozygous genome, high genetic load, and genotype-dependent asynchronous flowering. It is typically propagated by stem cuttings and any genetic variation between haplotypes, including large structural variations, is preserved by such clonal propagation. Traditional genome assembly approaches generate a collapsed haplotype representation of the genome. In highly heterozygous plants, this results in artifacts and an oversimplification of heterozygous regions. We used a combination of Pacific Biosciences (PacBio), Illumina, and Hi-C to resolve each haplotype of the genome of a farmer-preferred cassava line, TME7 (Oko-iyawo). PacBio reads were assembled using the FALCON suite. Phase switch errors were corrected using FALCON-Phase and Hi-C read data. The ultra-long-range information from Hi-C sequencing was also used for scaffolding. Comparison of the two phases revealed more than 5,000 large haplotype-specific structural variants affecting over 8 Mb, including insertions and deletions spanning thousands of base pairs. The potential of these variants to affect allele specific expression was further explored. RNA-seq data from 11 different tissue types were mapped against the scaffolded haploid assembly and gene expression data are incorporated into our existing easy-to-use web-based interface to facilitate use by the broader plant science community. These two assemblies provide an excellent means to study the effects of heterozygosity, haplotype-specific structural variation, gene hemizygosity, and allele specific gene expression contributing to important agricultural traits and further our understanding of the genetics and domestication of cassava.


Developmentally regulated activation of defense allows for rapid inhibition of infection in age-related resistance to Phytophthora capsici in cucumber fruit

Ben N. Mansfeld, Marivi Colle, Chunqiu Zhang, Ying-Chen Lin, Rebecca Grumet

Background Age-related resistance (ARR) is a developmentally regulated phenomenon conferring resistance to pathogens or pests. Although ARR has been observed in several host-pathogen systems, the underlying mechanisms are largely uncharacterized. In cucumber, rapidly growing fruit are highly susceptible to Phytophthora capsici but become resistant as they complete exponential growth. We previously demonstrated that ARR is associated with the fruit peel and identified gene expression and metabolomic changes potentially functioning as preformed defenses.

Results Here, we compare the response to infection in fruit at resistant and susceptible ages using microscopy, quantitative bioassays, and weighted gene co-expression analyses. We observed strong transcriptional changes unique to resistant aged fruit 2-4 hours post inoculation (hpi). Microscopy and bioassays confirmed this early response, with evidence of pathogen death and infection failure as early as 4 hpi and cessation of pathogen growth by 8-10 hpi. Expression analyses identified candidate genes involved in conferring the rapid response including those encoding transcription factors, hormone signaling pathways, and defenses such as reactive oxygen species metabolism and phenylpropanoid biosynthesis.

Conclusion The early pathogen death and rapid defense response in resistant-aged fruit provide insight into potential mechanisms for ARR, implicating both pre-formed biochemical defenses and developmentally regulated capacity for pathogen recognition as key factors shaping age-related resistance.