Molecular markers for tolerance of European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) to dieback disease identified using Associative Transcriptomics

Andrea L. Harper*, Lea Vig McKinney, Lene Rostgaard Nielsen, Lenka Havlickova, Yi Li, Martin Trick, Fiona Fraser, Lihong Wang, Alison Fellgett, Elizabeth S A Sollars, Sophie H. Janacek, J. Allan Downie, Richard J A Buggs, Erik Dahl Kjær, Ian Bancroft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tree disease epidemics are a global problem, impacting food security, biodiversity and national economies. The potential for conservation and breeding in trees is hampered by complex genomes and long lifecycles, with most species lacking genomic resources. The European Ash tree Fraxinus excelsior is being devastated by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which causes ash dieback disease. Taking this system as an example and utilizing Associative Transcriptomics for the first time in a plant pathology study, we discovered gene sequence and gene expression variants across a genetic diversity panel scored for disease symptoms and identified markers strongly associated with canopy damage in infected trees. Using these markers we predicted phenotypes in a test panel of unrelated trees, successfully identifying individuals with a low level of susceptibility to the disease. Co-expression analysis suggested that pre-priming of defence responses may underlie reduced susceptibility to ash dieback.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19335
Number of pages7
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2016

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