, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 562-570

Field performance of chitinase transgenic silver birches (Betula pendula): resistance to fungal diseases

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Abstract

A field trial of 15 transgenic birch lines expressing a sugar beet chitinase IV gene and the corresponding controls was established in southern Finland to study the effects of the level of sugar beet chitinase IV expression on birch resistance to fungal diseases. The symptoms caused by natural infections of two fungal pathogens, Pyrenopeziza betulicola (leaf spot disease) and Melampsoridium betulinum (birch rust), were analysed in the field during a period of 3 years. The lines that had shown a high level of sugar beet chitinase IV mRNA accumulation in the greenhouse also showed high sugar beet chitinase IV expression after 3 years in the field. The level of sugar beet chitinase IV expression did not significantly improve the resistance of transgenic birches to leaf spot disease. Instead, some transgenic lines were significantly more susceptible to leaf spot than the controls. The level of sugar beet chitinase IV expression did have an improving effect on most parameters of birch rust; the groups of lines showing high or intermediate transgene expression were more resistant to birch rust than those showing low expression. This result indicates that the tested transformation may provide a tool for increasing the resistance of silver birch to birch rust.

Communicated by C. Möllers