International Xylella Workshop: Lasting Impact of ONSA/LICR Partnership
An International Workshop on Xylella fastidiosa was held in São Paulo, Brazil, August 20th - 22nd, 2007. Scientists from Brazil and the United States gathered to discuss topics important for the control of this destructive phytopathogen, including genetic diversity, proteomic and transcriptomic analyses, identification of regulatory factors of virulence and pathogenicity, development of Xylella fastidiosa resistant plants and the discovery of other genomic-based approaches to prevent X. fastidiosa infection of citrus crops.
The growing international research effort related to X. fastidiosa originated from the sequencing of its genome by an LICR-led Brazil-based collaborative effort. Prior to the completion of the sequencing project, X. fastidiosa was a relatively unknown organism. Only 17 articles were listed in the NCBI PubMed database on Xylella prior to the publication of the sequence in Nature1 in 2000. Since then, 163 papers have been published. The workshop also demonstrated the advancement of research in Brazil — from genome sequencing to areas of functional and applied genomics and proteomics — underlining the importance that the X. fastidiosa genome project had in preparing and positioning Brazil in the field of genomics research.
Dr. Andy Simpson, LICR Scientific Director, was first author of the Nature paper, which was also featured on the front cover of the journal. “The rapid research advancements and practical developments for combating infection with Xylella discussed at this workshop are a direct and significant result of sequencing the genome of this plant pathogen. It is exciting to see such a large body of data being generated and promising new technologies developed, and this certainly demonstrates the usefulness and importance of such genomics projects.”
The X. fastidiosa genome sequencing project was completed by the Organization for Nucleotide Sequencing and Analysis (ONSA), which was organized by the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and investigators from the LICR São Paulo Branch. The ONSA network represented a new model of conducting scientific research in Brazil, consisting of an organizational laboratory, a bioinformatics laboratory and 30 sequencing centers located across the state of São Paulo and linked by intranet. The success of the project catapulted Brazil into the same league as the large sequencing centers in the United States and Europe, prompting FAPESP to fund additional ONSA sequencing projects conducted. The most famous of these was the joint ONSA / LICR Human Cancer Genome Project (HCGP), which was formed in 1999 to sequence transcripts derived from human tumors and normal tissues. This project, led by Dr. Simpson while at the LICR São Paulo Branch, resulted in the development of a powerful new technology to generate cDNA (ORESTES) and the generation and deposition of a million EST (expressed sequence tags) sequences into publicly-available databases2. The HCGP contribution was the second largest, after the US National Cancer Institute.
1.Simpson et al., 2000, The genome sequence of the plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa. The Xylella fastidiosa Consortium of the Organization for Nucleotide Sequencing and Analysis. Nature 406(6792):151-9.
2.Camargo et al., 2001, The contribution of 700,000 ORF sequence tags to the definition of the human transcriptome. PNAS 98(21):12103-8.