Applied Genomics and Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology is the youngest section of Laimburg Research Centre. Its laboratory uses innovative DNA-, RNA- and protein-based techniques such as PCR, RT-PCR, qualitative and quantitative real-time PCR, DNA sequencing, analyses of various DNA-fragments and microarrays as well as 2D gel electrophoresis to find answers to a whole host of issues raised in the context of South Tyrolean agriculture.

The Molecular Biology section is organised in the following divisions:

  • Functional Genomics
  • Gene Bank

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The main objective of functional genomics is to link genetic information (genome) to the function and appearance (phenotype) of an organism.

The expression of phenotypic characteristics is affected by environmental factors, genetic variation and gene regulation. Functional genomics therefore focuses on the systematic analysis of gene expression as well as on interaction studies of gene products and their impact on different characteristics of the organism of interest. This serves to unravel and characterise the function of genes in different species (e.g. plants and bacteria).

Two projects currently analyse the complex interactions of apple proliferation disease development and spread: APPL2.0 (2012-2017) and APPLClust (2013-2018).

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While the conditions surrounding apples and grapes do affect their look, taste, substance, susceptibility to disease and many more characteristics, they are first and foremost a product of genetic factors inscribed in their genetic material – the genome.

The Breeding Genomics task group establishes the relevant differences of genetic factors in different varieties as well as their impact on the appearance of a plant and how they are passed on through generations. Research into pre-defined regions of apple tree and vine genomes reveals information on the identity of a variety, its pollination compatibility with other varieties, its susceptibility to pathogenic agents and the potential quality of its apples of grapes. A number of projects provide a solid basis upon which to answer the following and similar questions:

  • Which apple varieties are ideal pollinators for my orchard?
  • Which apple variety grows in my garden?
  • Which apples are hypoallergenic and which ones can be used to treat birch pollen allergies?
  • Which newly developed apple seedlings contain several defence mechanisms against apple scab?
  • Are the rootstocks in my vineyard labelled correctly?
  • Which grape variety is most suitable for a sustainable cultivation approach, and how can the quality of fungus resistant grape varieties (PIWI) be increased?

DNA tests and molecular markers are used to strategically orient the Laimburg Research Centre's breeding programme upon developing new varieties with a strong focus on quality and sustainability. And thanks to the development of a data base containing over a thousand genetic profiles, anyone interested can now obtain information and proof of the identity of their varieties and rootstocks.

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