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Associate Professor Russell Poulter and Professor Iain Lamont have been investigating the bacterial causes of diseases in New Zealand kiwifruit.

PSA affects New Zealand Kiwifruit

A recently emerged plant disease, bacterial canker of kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa and A. chinensis), is caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (PSA). The disease was first reported in China and Japan in the 1980s. A severe outbreak of PSA began in Italy in 2008 and has spread to other European countries. PSA was found in both New Zealand and Chile in 2010.

Genome sequencing shows clonal grouping

To study the evolution of the pathogen and analyse the transmission of PSA between countries, genomes of strains from China and Japan (where the genus Actinidia is endemic), Italy, New Zealand and Chile were sequenced. The genomes of PSA strains are very similar. However, all strains from New Zealand share several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that distinguish them from all other PSA strains. Similarly, all the PSA strains from the 2008 Italian outbreak form a distinct clonal group and those from Chile form a third group.

Rare SNPs, and similar islands

In addition to the rare SNPs present in the core genomes, there is abundant genetic diversity in a genomic island that is part of the accessory genome. The island from several Chinese strains is almost identical to the island present in the New Zealand strains. The island from a different Chinese strain is identical to the island present in the strains from the recent Italian outbreak. The Chilean strains of PSA carry a third variant of this island.

Chinese origin indicated

These genomic islands are integrative conjugative elements (ICEs). Sequencing of these ICEs provides evidence of three recent horizontal transmissions of ICE from other strains of Pseudomonas syringae to PSA. The analyses of the core genome SNPs, and the ICEs, combined with disease history, all support the hypothesis of an independent Chinese origin for both the Italian, and the New Zealand outbreaks. This suggests the Chilean strains also originate from China.


Butler MI, Stockwell PA, Black MA, Day RC, Lamont IL, et al. (2013) Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae from Recent Outbreaks of Kiwifruit Bacterial Canker Belong to Different Clones That Originated in China. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57464. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057464

Photo of Professor Iain Lamont
Professor Iain Lamont

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Read about Professor Lamont's recent funding success to explore antibiotic-resistant bacteria in hospital-acquired infections:
Prof Lamont gains OMRF funding 30 July 2014, Biochemistry website

Phot of Russell poulter
Associate Professor Russell Poulter

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Read more about Associate Professor Russell Poulter's work:
Eukaryote mobile genetic elements Biochemistry website

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