Founded in 1975 as the all Union Research Institute of Applied Enzimology, currently, the Institute of Biotechnology is mainly involved in research and training in the fields of biotechnology and molecular biology, including research and development of recombinant biomedical proteins, genetic and molecular studies of restriction modification phenomenon, developing of viruses diagnostics, epigenetic study of small RNA, drug design and synthesis, bioinformatics.
This project is supported by grant Nr. N-07010 from Lithuanian State Science and Studies Foundation.
Rapidly evolving molecular biology provided new tools for plant phytopathology. As a consequence, the smallest known pathogens (viroids and mollicutes – phytoplasmas and spyroplasmas) had been discovered that received huge worldwide attention due to the economical damage done by them to the agriculturally valuable crops.
In Lithuania, before launching this project only few phytoplasmas had been found in pear, cherry, apple trees and strawberry plants while viroids had never been studied at all. Therefore, more comprehensive studies are needed to evaluate diversity of and damage being done by phytoplasmas and viroids in valuable plants in Lithuania.
This project is aimed at identification of the harmful viroid and phytoplasma species in Lithuania, evaluation of their disperse in horticultural crops used in industrial biotechnology and revealing the possibilities of growing viroid- and phytoplasma-free plants by applying thermo-, cryo-, and chemo-therapy in vitro. While running this project we plan to determine existence of viroids in Lithuania, to evaluate yet unknown disperse of mollicutes (phytoplasmas and acholeplasmas), to identify and characterize the detected pathogens by applying molecular techniques, to evaluate their genetic and biological properties and damage done, to collect necessary information about the detected pathogens and to develop molecular pathogen detection methods by designing new primer groups, to evaluate possibilities of horizontal DNA transfer within the phytoplasmas’ genome and to evaluate the possibilities of eliminating viroids and phytoplasmas from the infected plants in vitro.
In 2007 the gardens as well ecological plantations were inspected in the Southern (Alytus and Marijampolė regions), Central (Kaunas region), North-Western (Šiauliai region) and Eastern (Vilnius region) Lithuania, 93 plant samples were collected. Of them, 68 were examined by applying Return Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis or PCR techniques to detect viroid RNAs and phytoplasmas respectively. The results obtained suggest that 5 trees (4 sweet cherry and 1 apple tree) presumably are viroid infected while phytoplasmas were found in the samples of 18 plants. Using AY1 strain of the 16SrI type phytoplasma new PCR primers were designed that allow accelerating detection of phytoplasmas. The plants being infected by phytoplasmas and viroids also suffer heavily from the other microorganisms (bacterias and fungi). This prevents creating a sterile plant culture in vitro.