Introduction

There are three research groups at the Institute of Genetics, Microbiology and Biotechnology (GMBI) at Szent István University (SZIU):

the Microbiological and Ecotoxicology Group, the Plant Genetics, Plant Breeding and Plant Biotechnology Group and the Animal Genetics Group.

Microbiological and Ecotoxicology Group:

Arbuscular Mycorrhizae (AM), which plays a central role in both artificial and natural ecosystems, is in the scope of the scientific curiosity of the Microbiology and Environmental toxicology group. Our research area also encompasses (i) diversity studies, (ii) coexistence of AM fungi and the so-called „helper” bacteria in addition to other rhizosphere microorganisms playing a role in the macroelement cycles, as well as in the (iii) relationship between AM and plant pathogen fungi. During diversity studies in AM fungi our research efforts are focusing on the effect of different agronomic techniques on the diversity of AM, thus providing recommendations that can be used in practice to promote environmentally friendly agricultural practices. To examine the role AM fungi play in enhancing the pathogen resistance of host plants we apply both carrot roots (Daucus carota L.) transformed with the root inducing plasmid (Ri) of Agrobacterium rhizogenes and  classical and molecular microbiological methods to study the genes involved in plant defence mechanisms. The aim of our work is to integrate the usage of AM fungi in the biological fortification of plants by shedding light on the mechanisms by which AM fungi enhance the resistance of the host plants contributing thereby to the environmentally friendly agricultural practices. We also examine the effect of biotic and abiotic stresses on the activity of AM fungi by conducting gene expression and enzyme activity studies along with adopting a more complex approach by examining the combined effects of plants, AM, and soil microorganisms. Furthermore, we can also monitor the effect of toxin producing fungi on the toxin production itself with special regards to fusarium toxins. Besides these research areas, our work is further extended to study thermophilic fungi capable of the bio-conversation of lignocellulosic agricultural waste materials. We focus not only on the enzymes participating in the different processes and on the isolation of strains surviving even under extreme environmental conditions, which makes them good candidates for practical application, but also on the development of combined curdling agents.

Plant Genetics, Plant Breeding and Plant Biotechnology Group:

The main research areas of our Institute include plant genetics, plant breeding, and plant biotechnology with the related fields of genomics, molecular genetics and molecular breeding. In the field of genomics and gene technology our research efforts are mainly focused on gene cloning, identification and functional analysis of different species. The most important research projects in the fields of molecular genetics and molecular breeding are related to molecular taxonomy, marker identification, molecular fingerprint identification and Marker Assisted Selection (MAS). Studies relying on in vitro culture techniques are mainly concerned with the micropropagation of horticultural and woody species e.g. Carnation, strawberry, apple, Paulownia species. A range of techniques including genotyping, pedigree identification, molecular markers are applied in plant species such as grapevine, strawberry, cherry, sour cherry, apricots, peach and plum. MAS are also used to determine the genetic background of berry colour in Vitis sp. By applying MAS we successfully identified genotypes resistant to powdery mildew, downy mildew and black rot in grapevine and we distinguished varieties of different colours in grapevine, apple and Brassica species. Molecular taxonomic studies are conducted in protected plant species. In the field of genomics and functional genomics experiments involving the isolation, cloning and functional characterization of ripening specific genes are carried out in strawberry. In addition, experiments aimed at exploring the expression patterns and regulation of genes induced by powdery mildew in grapevine species are also performed.

Animal Genetics Group:

The main research programme of the Group of Animal genetics includes the genome-wide genetic mapping of selected species. One of our most significant research projects were aimed at characterizing the genetic background of the double-muscled phenotype in a hypermuscular mutant mice. This trait can be of crucial significance in beef cattle breeds. Several research groups competed on the international level to discover the major gene of hypermuscularity. Eventually an American research group succeeded in finding the so called myostatin gene. The mutant version of this gene causes some cattle breeds to have double-muscled phenotype and bring about the hypermuscular trait in mice. The myostatin gene carries a 12 bp-long deletion mutation in mice.Our recent experiments are based on the latest results and developments in genetics. Accordingly, the genome mapping project of pets is mostly based on SNP-chip technology. One of the most significant breakthroughs in the field of animal husbandry was the application of genomic selection in dairy cattle. With the help of genomic selection we are able to predict the milking capacity of young bulls before they reach age of 5-6. After the calves are born an SNP-chip examination can be carried out in order to predict their future performance with high accuracy. Since the application of this method can help us save a lot of time and money, it has become widespread throughout the world. At the department our plan is to carry out genomic assays in an attempt to examine 9 Hungarian dog breeds (puli, pumi, mudi, kuvasz, komondor, Hungarian and wire-haired vizsla, Transylvanian Hound, Hungarian greyhound). Furthermore, it is also our aim to explore the genetic background and some of the major genes of morphological traits and breed-specific behavior patterns as well as to identify the chromosomal regions affecting the expression of these genes.

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