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1.  Some Like It Hot: The Influence and Implications of Climate Change on Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei) and Coffee Production in East Africa 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24528.
The negative effects of climate change are already evident for many of the 25 million coffee farmers across the tropics and the 90 billion dollar (US) coffee industry. The coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei), the most important pest of coffee worldwide, has already benefited from the temperature rise in East Africa: increased damage to coffee crops and expansion in its distribution range have been reported. In order to anticipate threats and prioritize management actions for H. hampei we present here, maps on future distributions of H. hampei in coffee producing areas of East Africa. Using the CLIMEX model we relate present-day insect distributions to current climate and then project the fitted climatic envelopes under future scenarios A2A and B2B (for HADCM3 model). In both scenarios, the situation with H. hampei is forecasted to worsen in the current Coffea arabica producing areas of Ethiopia, the Ugandan part of the Lake Victoria and Mt. Elgon regions, Mt. Kenya and the Kenyan side of Mt. Elgon, and most of Rwanda and Burundi. The calculated hypothetical number of generations per year of H. hampei is predicted to increase in all C. arabica-producing areas from five to ten. These outcomes will have serious implications for C. arabica production and livelihoods in East Africa. We suggest that the best way to adapt to a rise of temperatures in coffee plantations could be via the introduction of shade trees in sun grown plantations. The aims of this study are to fill knowledge gaps existing in the coffee industry, and to draft an outline for the development of an adaptation strategy package for climate change on coffee production. An abstract in Spanish is provided as Abstract S1.
PMCID: PMC3173381  PMID: 21935419
2.  Cloning and expression of an endo-1,4-β-xylanase from the coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:23.
The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei, reproduces and feeds exclusively on the mature endosperm of the coffee seed, which has a cell wall composed mainly of a heterogeneous mixture of hemicellulose polysaccharides, including arabinoxylans. Xylanases are digestive enzymes responsible for the degradation of xylan based polymers, hydrolyzing them into smaller molecules that are easier to assimilate by insects. We report the cloning, expression and enzymatic characterization of a xylanase gene that was identified in the digestive tract of the coffee berry borer.
The complete DNA sequence encoding a H. hampei xylanase (HhXyl) was obtained using a genome walking technique in a cDNA library derived from the borer digestive tract. The XIP-I gene was amplified from wheat (Triticum aestivum variety Soisson). A Pichia pastoris expression system was used to express the recombinant form of these enzymes. The xylanase activity and XIP-I inhibitory activity was quantified by the 3,5-dinitrosalicylic (DNS). The biological effects of XIP-I on borer individuals were evaluated by providing an artificial diet enriched with the recombinant XIP-I protein to the insects.
The borer xylanase sequence contains a 951 bp open reading frame that is predicted to encode a 317-amino acid protein, with an estimated molecular weight of 34.92 kDa and a pI of 4.84. Bioinformatic analysis revealed that HhXyl exhibits high sequence homology with endo-β-D-xylanases of Streptomyces bingchenggensis from glycosyl hydrolase 10 (GH10). The recombinant xylanase showed maximal activity at pH 5.5 and 37°C. XIP-I expressed as a recombinant protein inhibited HhXyl activity in vitro and caused individual H. hampei mortality in bioassays when included as a supplement in artificial diets.
A xylanase from the digestive tract of the coffee berry borer was identified and functionally characterized. A xylanase inhibitor protein, XIP-I, from wheat was shown to be a potent inhibitor of this xylanase, suggesting that its deployment has potential as a strategy to control coffee berry borer colonization of coffee plants.
PMCID: PMC3283504  PMID: 22233686
3.  An EST-based analysis identifies new genes and reveals distinctive gene expression features of Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:30.
Coffee is one of the world's most important crops; it is consumed worldwide and plays a significant role in the economy of producing countries. Coffea arabica and C. canephora are responsible for 70 and 30% of commercial production, respectively. C. arabica is an allotetraploid from a recent hybridization of the diploid species, C. canephora and C. eugenioides. C. arabica has lower genetic diversity and results in a higher quality beverage than C. canephora. Research initiatives have been launched to produce genomic and transcriptomic data about Coffea spp. as a strategy to improve breeding efficiency.
Assembling the expressed sequence tags (ESTs) of C. arabica and C. canephora produced by the Brazilian Coffee Genome Project and the Nestlé-Cornell Consortium revealed 32,007 clusters of C. arabica and 16,665 clusters of C. canephora. We detected different GC3 profiles between these species that are related to their genome structure and mating system. BLAST analysis revealed similarities between coffee and grape (Vitis vinifera) genes. Using KA/KS analysis, we identified coffee genes under purifying and positive selection. Protein domain and gene ontology analyses suggested differences between Coffea spp. data, mainly in relation to complex sugar synthases and nucleotide binding proteins. OrthoMCL was used to identify specific and prevalent coffee protein families when compared to five other plant species. Among the interesting families annotated are new cystatins, glycine-rich proteins and RALF-like peptides. Hierarchical clustering was used to independently group C. arabica and C. canephora expression clusters according to expression data extracted from EST libraries, resulting in the identification of differentially expressed genes. Based on these results, we emphasize gene annotation and discuss plant defenses, abiotic stress and cup quality-related functional categories.
We present the first comprehensive genome-wide transcript profile study of C. arabica and C. canephora, which can be freely assessed by the scientific community at Our data reveal the presence of species-specific/prevalent genes in coffee that may help to explain particular characteristics of these two crops. The identification of differentially expressed transcripts offers a starting point for the correlation between gene expression profiles and Coffea spp. developmental traits, providing valuable insights for coffee breeding and biotechnology, especially concerning sugar metabolism and stress tolerance.
PMCID: PMC3045888  PMID: 21303543
4.  Spiroacetals in the Colonization Behaviour of the Coffee Berry Borer: A ‘Push-Pull’ System 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e111316.
Coffee berries are known to release several volatile organic compounds, among which is the spiroacetal, conophthorin, an attractant for the coffee berry borer Hypothenemus hampei. Elucidating the effects of other spiroacetals released by coffee berries is critical to understanding their chemo-ecological roles in the host discrimination and colonization process of the coffee berry borer, and also for their potential use in the management of this pest. Here, we show that the coffee berry spiroacetals frontalin and 1,6-dioxaspiro [4.5] decane (referred thereafter as brocain), are also used as semiochemicals by the coffee berry borer for host colonization. Bioassays and chemical analyses showed that crowding coffee berry borers from 2 to 6 females per berry, reduced borer fecundity, which appeared to correlate with a decrease in the emission rates of conophthorin and frontalin over time. In contrast, the level of brocain did not vary significantly between borer- uninfested and infested berries. Brocain was attractive at lower doses, but repellent at higher doses while frontalin alone or in a blend was critical for avoidance. Field assays with a commercial attractant comprising a mixture of ethanol and methanol (1∶1), combined with frontalin, confirmed the repellent effect of this compound by disrupting capture rates of H. hampei females by 77% in a coffee plantation. Overall, our results suggest that the levels of frontalin and conophthorin released by coffee berries determine the host colonization behaviour of H. hampei, possibly through a ‘push-pull’ system, whereby frontalin acts as the ‘push’ (repellent) and conophthorin acting as the ‘pull’ (attractant). Furthermore, our results reveal the potential use of frontalin as a repellent for management of this coffee pest.
PMCID: PMC4224388  PMID: 25380135
5.  Recent Advances in the Genetic Transformation of Coffee 
Coffee is one of the most important plantation crops, grown in about 80 countries across the world. The genus Coffea comprises approximately 100 species of which only two species, that is, Coffea arabica (commonly known as arabica coffee) and Coffea canephora (known as robusta coffee), are commercially cultivated. Genetic improvement of coffee through traditional breeding is slow due to the perennial nature of the plant. Genetic transformation has tremendous potential in developing improved coffee varieties with desired agronomic traits, which are otherwise difficult to achieve through traditional breeding. During the last twenty years, significant progress has been made in coffee biotechnology, particularly in the area of transgenic technology. This paper provides a detailed account of the advances made in the genetic transformation of coffee and their potential applications.
PMCID: PMC3437269  PMID: 22970380
6.  Characterization and Expression Analysis of Genes Directing Galactomannan Synthesis in Coffee 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(2):207-220.
Background and Aims
Galactomannans act as storage reserves for the seeds in some plants, such as guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) and coffee (Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora). In coffee, the galactomannans can represent up to 25 % of the mass of the mature green coffee grain, and they exert a significant influence on the production of different types of coffee products. The objective of the current work was to isolate and characterize cDNA encoding proteins responsible for galactomannan synthesis in coffee and to study the expression of the corresponding transcripts in the developing coffee grain from C. arabica and C. canephora, which potentially exhibit slight galactomannan variations. Comparative gene expression analysis was also carried out for several other tissues of C. arabica and C. canephora.
cDNA banks, RACE-PCR and genome walking were used to generate full-length cDNA for two putative coffee mannan synthases (ManS) and two galactomannan galactosyl transferases (GMGT). Gene-specific probe-primer sets were then generated and used to carry out comparative expression analysis of the corresponding genes in different coffee tissues using quantitative RT-PCR
Key Results
Two of the putative galactomannan biosynthetic genes, ManS1 and GMGT1, were demonstrated to have very high expression in the developing coffee grain of both Coffea species during endosperm development, consistent with our proposal that these two genes are responsible for the production of the majority of the galactomannans found in the grain. In contrast, the expression data presented indicates that the ManS2 gene product is probably involved in the synthesis of the galactomannans found in green tissue.
The identification of genes implicated in galactomannan synthesis in coffee are presented. The data obtained will enable more detailed studies on the biosynthesis of this important component of coffee grain and contribute to a better understanding of some functional differences between grain from C. arabica and C. canephora.
PMCID: PMC2712370  PMID: 18562467
Coffea; galactomannans; mannan synthase; galactomannan galactosyl transferase; coffee grain
7.  Cloning and biochemical characterization of an endo-1,4-β-mannanase from the coffee berry borer hypothenemus hampei 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:333.
The study of coffee polysaccharides-degrading enzymes from the coffee berry borer Hypothenemus hampei, has become an important alternative in the identification for enzymatic inhibitors that can be used as an alternative control of this dangerous insect. We report the cloning, expression and biochemical characterization of a mannanase gene that was identified in the midgut of the coffee berry borer and is responsible for the degradation of the most abundant polysaccharide in the coffee bean.
The amino acid sequence of HhMan was analyzed by multiple sequence alignment comparisons with BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) and CLUSTALW. A Pichia pastoris expression system was used to express the recombinant form of the enzyme. The mannanase activity was quantified by the 3,5-dinitrosalicylic (DNS) and the hydrolitic properties were detected by TLC.
An endo-1,4-β-mannanase from the digestive tract of the insect Hypothenemus hampei was cloned and expressed as a recombinant protein in the Pichia pastoris system. This enzyme is 56% identical to the sequence of an endo-β-mannanase from Bacillus circulans that belongs to the glycosyl hydrolase 5 (GH5) family. The purified recombinant protein (rHhMan) exhibited a single band (35.5 kDa) by SDS-PAGE, and its activity was confirmed by zymography. rHhMan displays optimal activity levels at pH 5.5 and 30°C and can hydrolyze galactomannans of varying mannose:galactose ratios, suggesting that the enzymatic activity is independent of the presence of side chains such as galactose residues. The enzyme cannot hydrolyze manno-oligosaccharides such as mannobiose and mannotriose; however, it can degrade mannotetraose, likely through a transglycosylation reaction. The Km and kcat values of this enzyme on guar gum were 2.074 mg ml-1 and 50.87 s-1, respectively, which is similar to other mannanases.
This work is the first study of an endo-1,4-β-mannanase from an insect using this expression system. Due to this enzyme’s importance in the digestive processes of the coffee berry borer, this study may enable the design of inhibitors against endo-1,4-β-mannanase to decrease the economic losses stemming from this insect.
PMCID: PMC3765340  PMID: 23965285
Endo-mannanase; Coffee berry borer; Hypotenemus hampei; Glycosyl hydrolase
8.  On the Eyes of Male Coffee Berry Borers as Rudimentary Organs 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85860.
The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei, is the most damaging insect pest of coffee worldwide. Like males in other species in the genus, male coffee berry borers have a lower number of facets in the compound eyes than females. The rudimentary eyes in male coffee berry borers could be an evolutionary response to their cryptic life habit, whereby they are born inside a coffee berry and never leave the berry. The main objective of the study was to determine if the differences in the number of facets translates into differences in visual acuity. We used low-temperature scanning electron microscopy to visualize and quantify the number of facets in the compound eyes. There was a significantly lower (p<0.0001) number of facets in males (19.1±4.10) than in females (127.5±3.88). To assess visual acuity, we conducted optomotor response experiments, which indicate that females respond to movement, while males did not respond under the conditions tested. The coffee berry borer is an example of an insect whereby disuse of an organ has led to a rudimentary compound eye. This is the first study that has experimentally tested responses to movement in bark beetles.
PMCID: PMC3896430  PMID: 24465752
9.  In vitro production of two chitinolytic proteins with an inhibiting effect on the insect coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei (Ferrari) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and the fungus Hemileia vastatrix the most limiting pests of coffee crops 
AMB Express  2012;2:22.
Two genes from Streptomyces albidoflavus, one exochitinase (905-bp) and an endochitinase (1100-bp) were functionally expressed in Escherichia coli in form of a fusion protein with a maltose binding protein (MBP). The goal was to produce and test proteins that inhibit both the coffee berry borer insect Hypothenemus hampei and the coffee rust fungus Hemileia vastatrix. Both recombinant proteins MBP/exochitinase and MBP/endochitinase showed chitinolytic activity. When recombinant purified proteins were added to an artificial coffee-based diet for the coffee berry borer, MBP/exochitinase at a concentration of 0.5% W/W caused delayed growth of larvae and 100% mortality between days 8 and 15, while MBP/endochitinase caused 100% mortality at day 35. H. vastatrix urediniospores presented total cell wall degradation in their germinative tubes within 18 h of exposure to the proteins at enzyme concentrations of 5 and 6 mg ml-1, with exochitinase having the greatest effect. The dual deleterious effect of S. albidoflavus chitinases on two of the most limiting coffee pests worldwide, the coffee borer and the coffee rust, make them potential elements to be incorporated in integrated control strategies.
PMCID: PMC3366868  PMID: 22464210
Coffee-based artificial diet; Uredinospores; Arrested development; Fungal cell wall; Growth; Mortality
10.  Climate Change or Urbanization? Impacts on a Traditional Coffee Production System in East Africa over the Last 80 Years 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e51815.
Global environmental changes (GEC) such as climate change (CC) and climate variability have serious impacts in the tropics, particularly in Africa. These are compounded by changes in land use/land cover, which in turn are driven mainly by economic and population growth, and urbanization. These factors create a feedback loop, which affects ecosystems and particularly ecosystem services, for example plant-insect interactions, and by consequence agricultural productivity. We studied effects of GEC at a local level, using a traditional coffee production area in greater Nairobi, Kenya. We chose coffee, the most valuable agricultural commodity worldwide, as it generates income for 100 million people, mainly in the developing world. Using the coffee berry borer, the most serious biotic threat to global coffee production, we show how environmental changes and different production systems (shaded and sun-grown coffee) can affect the crop. We combined detailed entomological assessments with historic climate records (from 1929–2011), and spatial and demographic data, to assess GEC's impact on coffee at a local scale. Additionally, we tested the utility of an adaptation strategy that is simple and easy to implement. Our results show that while interactions between CC and migration/urbanization, with its resultant landscape modifications, create a feedback loop whereby agroecosystems such as coffee are adversely affected, bio-diverse shaded coffee proved far more resilient and productive than coffee grown in monoculture, and was significantly less harmed by its insect pest. Thus, a relatively simple strategy such as shading coffee can tremendously improve resilience of agro-ecosystems, providing small-scale farmers in Africa with an easily implemented tool to safeguard their livelihoods in a changing climate.
PMCID: PMC3544928  PMID: 23341884
11.  Genetic variation and risks of introgression in the wild Coffea arabica gene pool in south-western Ethiopian montane rainforests 
Evolutionary Applications  2012;6(2):243-252.
The montane rainforests of SW Ethiopia are the primary centre of diversity of Coffea arabica and the origin of all Arabica coffee cultivated worldwide. This wild gene pool is potentially threatened by forest fragmentation and degradation, and by introgressive hybridization with locally improved coffee varieties. We genotyped 703 coffee shrubs from unmanaged and managed coffee populations, using 24 microsatellite loci. Additionally, we genotyped 90 individuals representing 23 Ethiopian cultivars resistant to coffee berry disease (CBD). We determined population genetic diversity, genetic structure, and admixture of cultivar alleles in the in situ gene pool. We found strong genetic differentiation between managed and unmanaged coffee populations, but without significant differences in within-population genetic diversity. The widespread planting of coffee seedlings including CBD-resistant cultivars most likely offsets losses of genetic variation attributable to genetic drift and inbreeding. Mixing cultivars with original coffee genotypes, however, leaves ample opportunity for hybridization and replacement of the original coffee gene pool, which already shows signs of admixture. In situ conservation of the wild gene pool of C. arabica must therefore focus on limiting coffee production in the remaining wild populations, as intensification threatens the genetic integrity of the gene pool by exposing wild genotypes to cultivars.
PMCID: PMC3689350  PMID: 23798974
admixture; Afromontane rainforest; coffee; crop wild relative; ecosystem services; genetic erosion
12.  New Record for the Coffee Berry Borer, Hypothenemus hampei, in Hawaii 
The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei (Ferrari) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) is endemic to Africa and is the most devastating pest of coffee worldwide. The female bores a hole in the coffee berry and deposits her eggs inside. Upon hatching, larvae feed on the seeds, thus reducing both quality and yields of the marketable product. The coffee berry borer was found in the district of Kona on the island of Hawaii in August 2010 and appears to be restricted to that area.
PMCID: PMC3281356  PMID: 22225430
bark beetle; broca; Scolytinae
13.  Isolation and Characterization of cDNA Encoding Three Dehydrins Expressed During Coffea canephora (Robusta) Grain Development 
Annals of Botany  2006;97(5):755-765.
• Background and Aims Dehydrins, or group 2 late embryogenic abundant proteins (LEA), are hydrophilic Gly-rich proteins that are induced in vegetative tissues in response to dehydration, elevated salt, and low temperature, in addition to being expressed during the late stages of seed maturation. With the aim of characterizing and studying genes involved in osmotic stress tolerance in coffee, several full-length cDNA-encoding dehydrins (CcDH1, CcDH2 and CcDH3) and an LEA protein (CcLEA1) from Coffea canephora (robusta) were isolated and characterized.
• Methods The protein sequences deduced from the full-length cDNA were analysed to classify each dehydrin/LEA gene product and RT–PCR was used to determine the expression pattern of all four genes during pericarp and grain development, and in several other tissues of C. arabica and C. canephora. Primer-assisted genome walking was used to isolate the promoter region of the grain specific dehydrin gene (CcDH2).
• Key Results The CcDH1 and CcDH2 genes encode Y3SK2 dehydrins and the CcDH3 gene encodes an SK3 dehydrin. CcDH1 and CcDH2 are expressed during the final stages of arabica and robusta grain development, but only the CcDH1 transcripts are clearly detected in other tissues such as pericarp, leaves and flowers. CcDH3 transcripts are also found in developing arabica and robusta grain, in addition to being detected in pericarp, stem, leaves and flowers. CcLEA1 transcripts were only detected during a brief period of grain development. Finally, over 1 kb of genomic sequence potentially encoding the entire grain-specific promoter region of the CcDH2 gene was isolated and characterized.
• Conclusions cDNA sequences for three dehydrins and one LEA protein have been obtained and the expression of the associated genes has been determined in various tissues of arabica and robusta coffees. Because induction of dehydrin gene expression is associated with osmotic stress in other plants, the dehydrin sequences presented here will facilitate future studies on the induction and control of the osmotic stress response in coffee. The unique expression pattern observed for CcLEA1, and the expression of a related gene in other plants, suggests that this gene may play an important role in the development of grain endosperm tissue. Genomic DNA containing the grain-specific CcDH2 promoter region has been cloned. Sequence analysis indicates that this promoter contains several putative regulatory sites implicated in the control of both seed- and osmotic stress-specific gene expression. Thus, the CcDH2 promoter is likely to be a useful tool for basic studies on the control of gene expression during both grain maturation and osmotic stress in coffee.
PMCID: PMC2803416  PMID: 16504969
Dehydrins; late embryogenic abundant protein (LEA); seed development; Coffea; C. canephora; C. arabica; Rubiaceae
14.  Development of new genomic microsatellite markers from robusta coffee (Coffea canephora Pierre ex A. Froehner) showing broad cross-species transferability and utility in genetic studies 
BMC Plant Biology  2008;8:51.
Species-specific microsatellite markers are desirable for genetic studies and to harness the potential of MAS-based breeding for genetic improvement. Limited availability of such markers for coffee, one of the most important beverage tree crops, warrants newer efforts to develop additional microsatellite markers that can be effectively deployed in genetic analysis and coffee improvement programs. The present study aimed to develop new coffee-specific SSR markers and validate their utility in analysis of genetic diversity, individualization, linkage mapping, and transferability for use in other related taxa.
A small-insert partial genomic library of Coffea canephora, was probed for various SSR motifs following conventional approach of Southern hybridisation. Characterization of repeat positive clones revealed a very high abundance of DNRs (1/15 Kb) over TNRs (1/406 kb). The relative frequencies of different DNRs were found as AT >> AG > AC, whereas among TNRs, AGC was the most abundant repeat. The SSR positive sequences were used to design 58 primer pairs of which 44 pairs could be validated as single locus markers using a panel of arabica and robusta genotypes. The analysis revealed an average of 3.3 and 3.78 alleles and 0.49 and 0.62 PIC per marker for the tested arabicas and robustas, respectively. It also revealed a high cumulative PI over all the markers using both sib-based (10-6 and 10-12 for arabicas and robustas respectively) and unbiased corrected estimates (10-20 and 10-43 for arabicas and robustas respectively). The markers were tested for Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, linkage dis-equilibrium, and were successfully used to ascertain generic diversity/affinities in the tested germplasm (cultivated as well as species). Nine markers could be mapped on robusta linkage map. Importantly, the markers showed ~92% transferability across related species/genera of coffee.
The conventional approach of genomic library was successfully employed although with low efficiency to develop a set of 44 new genomic microsatellite markers of coffee. The characterization/validation of new markers demonstrated them to be highly informative, and useful for genetic studies namely, genetic diversity in coffee germplasm, individualization/bar-coding for germplasm protection, linkage mapping, taxonomic studies, and use as conserved orthologous sets across secondary genepool of coffee. Further, the relative frequency and distribution of different SSR motifs in coffee genome indicated coffee genome to be relatively poor in microsatellites compared to other plant species.
PMCID: PMC2396172  PMID: 18447947
15.  Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation of Coffea arabica (L.) is greatly enhanced by using established embryogenic callus cultures 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:92.
Following genome sequencing of crop plants, one of the main challenges today is determining the function of all the predicted genes. When gene validation approaches are used for woody species, the main obstacle is the low recovery rate of transgenic plants from elite or commercial cultivars. Embryogenic calli have frequently been the target tissue for transformation, but the difficulty in producing or maintaining embryogenic tissues is one of the main problems encountered in genetic transformation of many woody plants, including Coffea arabica.
We identified the conditions required for successful long-term proliferation of embryogenic cultures in C. arabica and designed a highly efficient and reliable Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation method based on these conditions. The transformation protocol with LBA1119 harboring pBin 35S GFP was established by evaluating the effect of different parameters on transformation efficiency by GFP detection. Using embryogenic callus cultures, co-cultivation with LBA1119 OD600 = 0.6 for five days at 20 °C enabled reproducible transformation. The maintenance conditions for the embryogenic callus cultures, particularly a high auxin to cytokinin ratio, the age of the culture (optimum for 7-10 months of proliferation) and the use of a yellow callus phenotype, were the most important factors for achieving highly efficient transformation (> 90%). At the histological level, successful transformation was related to the number of proembryogenic masses present. All the selected plants were proved to be transformed by PCR and Southern blot hybridization.
Most progress in increasing transformation efficiency in coffee has been achieved by optimizing the production conditions of embryogenic cultures used as target tissues for transformation. This is the first time that a strong positive effect of the age of the culture on transformation efficiency was demonstrated. Our results make Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of embryogenic cultures a viable and useful tool both for coffee breeding and for the functional analysis of agronomically important genes.
PMCID: PMC3111370  PMID: 21595964
16.  Identification of novel and conserved microRNAs in Coffea canephora and Coffea arabica 
Genetics and Molecular Biology  2014;37(4):671-682.
As microRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of many biological processes, a series of small RNAomes from plants have been produced in the last decade. However, miRNA data from several groups of plants are still lacking, including some economically important crops. Here microRNAs from Coffea canephora leaves were profiled and 58 unique sequences belonging to 33 families were found, including two novel microRNAs that have never been described before in plants. Some of the microRNA sequences were also identified in Coffea arabica that, together with C. canephora, correspond to the two major sources of coffee production in the world. The targets of almost all miRNAs were also predicted on coffee expressed sequences. This is the first report of novel miRNAs in the genus Coffea, and also the first in the plant order Gentianales. The data obtained establishes the basis for the understanding of the complex miRNA-target network on those two important crops.
PMCID: PMC4261967  PMID: 25505842
coffee; microRNA profiling; illumina sequencing
17.  Genetic Diversity of Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica L.) in Nicaragua as Estimated by Simple Sequence Repeat Markers 
The Scientific World Journal  2012;2012:939820.
Coffea arabica L. (arabica coffee), the only tetraploid species in the genus Coffea, represents the majority of the world's coffee production and has a significant contribution to Nicaragua's economy. The present paper was conducted to determine the genetic diversity of arabica coffee in Nicaragua for its conservation and breeding values. Twenty-six populations that represent eight varieties in Nicaragua were investigated using simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. A total of 24 alleles were obtained from the 12 loci investigated across 260 individual plants. The total Nei's gene diversity (HT) and the within-population gene diversity (HS) were 0.35 and 0.29, respectively, which is comparable with that previously reported from other countries and regions. Among the varieties, the highest diversity was recorded in the variety Catimor. Analysis of variance (AMOVA) revealed that about 87% of the total genetic variation was found within populations and the remaining 13% differentiate the populations (FST = 0.13; P < 0.001). The variation among the varieties was also significant. The genetic variation in Nicaraguan coffee is significant enough to be used in the breeding programs, and most of this variation can be conserved through ex situ conservation of a low number of populations from each variety.
PMCID: PMC3373144  PMID: 22701376
18.  Diversity and Communities of Foliar Endophytic Fungi from Different Agroecosystems of Coffea arabica L. in Two Regions of Veracruz, Mexico 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e98454.
Over the past 20 years, the biodiversity associated with shaded coffee plantations and the role of diverse agroforestry types in biodiversity conservation and environmental services have been topics of debate. Endophytic fungi, which are microorganisms that inhabit plant tissues in an asymptomatic manner, form a part of the biodiversity associated with coffee plants. Studies on the endophytic fungi communities of cultivable host plants have shown variability among farming regions; however, the variability in fungal endophytic communities of coffee plants among different coffee agroforestry systems is still poorly understood. As such, we analyzed the diversity and communities of foliar endophytic fungi inhabiting Coffea arabica plants growing in the rustic plantations and simple polycultures of two regions in the center of Veracruz, Mexico. The endophytic fungi isolates were identified by their morphological traits, and the majority of identified species correspond to species of fungi previously reported as endophytes of coffee leaves. We analyzed and compared the colonization rates, diversity, and communities of endophytes found in the different agroforestry systems and in the different regions. Although the endophytic diversity was not fully recovered, we found differences in the abundance and diversity of endophytes among the coffee regions and differences in richness between the two different agroforestry systems of each region. No consistent pattern of community similarity was found between the coffee agroforestry systems, but we found that rustic plantations shared the highest number of morphospecies. The results suggest that endophyte abundance, richness, diversity, and communities may be influenced predominantly by coffee region, and to a lesser extent, by the agroforestry system. Our results contribute to the knowledge of the relationships between agroforestry systems and biodiversity conservation and provide information regarding some endophytic fungi and their communities as potential management tools against coffee plant pests and pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4041768  PMID: 24887512
19.  Organization and molecular evolution of a disease-resistance gene cluster in coffee trees 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:240.
Most disease-resistance (R) genes in plants encode NBS-LRR proteins and belong to one of the largest and most variable gene families among plant genomes. However, the specific evolutionary routes of NBS-LRR encoding genes remain elusive. Recently in coffee tree (Coffea arabica), a region spanning the SH3 locus that confers resistance to coffee leaf rust, one of the most serious coffee diseases, was identified and characterized. Using comparative sequence analysis, the purpose of the present study was to gain insight into the genomic organization and evolution of the SH3 locus.
Sequence analysis of the SH3 region in three coffee genomes, Ea and Ca subgenomes from the allotetraploid C. arabica and Cc genome from the diploid C. canephora, revealed the presence of 5, 3 and 4 R genes in Ea, Ca, and Cc genomes, respectively. All these R-gene sequences appeared to be members of a CC-NBS-LRR (CNL) gene family that was only found at the SH3 locus in C. arabica. Furthermore, while homologs were found in several dicot species, comparative genomic analysis failed to find any CNL R-gene in the orthologous regions of other eudicot species. The orthology relationship among the SH3-CNL copies in the three analyzed genomes was determined and the duplication/deletion events that shaped the SH3 locus were traced back. Gene conversion events were detected between paralogs in all three genomes and also between the two sub-genomes of C. arabica. Significant positive selection was detected in the solvent-exposed residues of the SH3-CNL copies.
The ancestral SH3-CNL copy was inserted in the SH3 locus after the divergence between Solanales and Rubiales lineages. Moreover, the origin of most of the SH3-CNL copies predates the divergence between Coffea species. The SH3-CNL family appeared to evolve following the birth-and-death model, since duplications and deletions were inferred in the evolution of the SH3 locus. Gene conversion between paralog members, inter-subgenome sequence exchanges and positive selection appear to be the major forces acting on the evolution of SH3-CNL in coffee trees.
PMCID: PMC3113787  PMID: 21575174
20.  Thermal Tolerance of the Coffee Berry Borer Hypothenemus hampei: Predictions of Climate Change Impact on a Tropical Insect Pest 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6487.
Coffee is predicted to be severely affected by climate change. We determined the thermal tolerance of the coffee berry borer , Hypothenemus hampei, the most devastating pest of coffee worldwide, and make inferences on the possible effects of climate change using climatic data from Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. For this, the effect of eight temperature regimes (15, 20, 23, 25, 27, 30, 33 and 35°C) on the bionomics of H. hampei was studied. Successful egg to adult development occurred between 20–30°C. Using linear regression and a modified Logan model, the lower and upper thresholds for development were estimated at 14.9 and 32°C, respectively. In Kenya and Colombia, the number of pest generations per year was considerably and positively correlated with the warming tolerance. Analysing 32 years of climatic data from Jimma (Ethiopia) revealed that before 1984 it was too cold for H. hampei to complete even one generation per year, but thereafter, because of rising temperatures in the area, 1–2 generations per year/coffee season could be completed. Calculated data on warming tolerance and thermal safety margins of H. hampei for the three East African locations showed considerably high variability compared to the Colombian site. The model indicates that for every 1°C rise in thermal optimum (Topt.), the maximum intrinsic rate of increase (rmax) will increase by an average of 8.5%. The effects of climate change on the further range of H. hampei distribution and possible adaption strategies are discussed. Abstracts in Spanish and French are provided as supplementary material Abstract S1 and Abstract S2.
PMCID: PMC2715104  PMID: 19649255
21.  The 'PUCE CAFE' Project: the First 15K Coffee Microarray, a New Tool for Discovering Candidate Genes correlated to Agronomic and Quality Traits 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:5.
Understanding the genetic elements that contribute to key aspects of coffee biology will have an impact on future agronomical improvements for this economically important tree. During the past years, EST collections were generated in Coffee, opening the possibility to create new tools for functional genomics.
The "PUCE CAFE" Project, organized by the scientific consortium NESTLE/IRD/CIRAD, has developed an oligo-based microarray using 15,721 unigenes derived from published coffee EST sequences mostly obtained from different stages of fruit development and leaves in Coffea Canephora (Robusta). Hybridizations for two independent experiments served to compare global gene expression profiles in three types of tissue matter (mature beans, leaves and flowers) in C. canephora as well as in the leaves of three different coffee species (C. canephora, C. eugenoides and C. arabica). Microarray construction, statistical analyses and validation by Q-PCR analysis are presented in this study.
We have generated the first 15 K coffee array during this PUCE CAFE project, granted by Génoplante (the French consortium for plant genomics). This new tool will help study functional genomics in a wide range of experiments on various plant tissues, such as analyzing bean maturation or resistance to pathogens or drought. Furthermore, the use of this array has proven to be valid in different coffee species (diploid or tetraploid), drastically enlarging its impact for high-throughput gene expression in the community of coffee research.
PMCID: PMC3025959  PMID: 21208403
22.  Differential regulation of caffeine metabolism in Coffeaarabica (Arabica) and Coffea canephora (Robusta) 
Planta  2014;241:179-191.
Caffeine is a metabolite of great economic importance, especially in coffee, where it influences the sensorial and physiological impacts of the beverage. Caffeine metabolism in the Coffea species begins with the degradation of purine nucleotides through three specific N-methyltransferases: XMT, MXMT and DXMT. A comparative analysis was performed to clarify the molecular reasons behind differences in caffeine accumulation in two Coffea species, namely Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora var. robusta. Three different genes encoding N-methyltransferase were amplified in the doubled haploid Coffea canephora: CcXMT1, CcMXMT1 and CcDXMT. Six genes were amplified in the haploid Coffea arabica: CaXMT1, CaXMT2, CaMXMT1, CaMXMT2, CaDXMT1, and CaDXMT2. A complete phylogenic analysis was performed to identify specific key amino acids defining enzymatic function for each protein identified. Furthermore, a quantitative gene-expression analysis was conducted on leaves and on maturing coffee beans, simultaneously analyzing caffeine content. In the different varieties analyzed, caffeine accumulation is higher in leaves than in the coffee bean maturation period, higher in Robusta than in Arabica. In Robusta, CcXMT1 and CcDXMT gene expressions are predominant and transcriptional activity is higher in leaves than in maturing beans, and is highly correlated to caffeine accumulation. In Arabica, the CaXMT1 expression level is high in leaves and CaDXMT2 as well to a lesser extent, while global transcriptional activity is weak during bean maturation, suggesting that the transcriptional control of caffeine-related genes differs within different organs and between Arabica and Robusta. These findings indicate that caffeine accumulation in Coffea species has been modulated by a combination of differential transcriptional regulation and genome evolution.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00425-014-2170-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4282694  PMID: 25249475
Arabica; Beans; Caffeine; Expression; Leaves; N-methyltransferase; Robusta
23.  Validation of reference genes for normalization of qPCR gene expression data from Coffea spp. hypocotyls inoculated with Colletotrichum kahawae 
BMC Research Notes  2013;6:388.
Coffee production in Africa represents a significant share of the total export revenues and influences the lives of millions of people, yet severe socio-economic repercussions are annually felt in result of the overall losses caused by the coffee berry disease (CBD). This quarantine disease is caused by the fungus Colletotrichum kahawae Waller and Bridge, which remains one of the most devastating threats to Coffea arabica production in Africa at high altitude, and its dispersal to Latin America and Asia represents a serious concern. Understanding the molecular genetic basis of coffee resistance to this disease is of high priority to support breeding strategies. Selection and validation of suitable reference genes presenting stable expression in the system studied is the first step to engage studies of gene expression profiling.
In this study, a set of ten genes (S24, 14-3-3, RPL7, GAPDH, UBQ9, VATP16, SAND, UQCC, IDE and β-Tub9) was evaluated to identify reference genes during the first hours of interaction (12, 48 and 72 hpi) between resistant and susceptible coffee genotypes and C. kahawae. Three analyses were done for the selection of these genes considering the entire dataset and the two genotypes (resistant and susceptible), separately. The three statistical methods applied GeNorm, NormFinder, and BestKeeper, allowed identifying IDE as one of the most stable genes for all datasets analysed, and in contrast GADPH and UBQ9 as the least stable ones. In addition, the expression of two defense-related transcripts, encoding for a receptor like kinase and a pathogenesis related protein 10, were used to validate the reference genes selected.
Taken together, our results provide guidelines for reference gene(s) selection towards a more accurate and widespread use of qPCR to study the interaction between Coffea spp. and C. kahawae.
PMCID: PMC3849654  PMID: 24073624
24.  Identification and characterization of the Non-race specific Disease Resistance 1 (NDR1) orthologous protein in coffee 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:144.
Leaf rust, which is caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix (Pucciniales), is a devastating disease that affects coffee plants (Coffea arabica L.). Disadvantages that are associated with currently developed phytoprotection approaches have recently led to the search for alternative strategies. These include genetic manipulations that constitutively activate disease resistance signaling pathways. However, molecular actors of such pathways still remain unknown in C. arabica. In this study, we have isolated and characterized the coffee NDR1 gene, whose Arabidopsis ortholog is a well-known master regulator of the hypersensitive response that is dependent on coiled-coil type R-proteins.
Two highly homologous cDNAs coding for putative NDR1 proteins were identified and cloned from leaves of coffee plants. One of the candidate coding sequences was then expressed in the Arabidopsis knock-out null mutant ndr1-1. Upon a challenge with a specific strain of the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae (DC3000::AvrRpt2), analysis of both macroscopic symptoms and in planta microbial growth showed that the coffee cDNA was able to restore the resistance phenotype in the mutant genetic background. Thus, the cDNA was dubbed CaNDR1a (standing for Coffea arabica Non-race specific Disease Resistance 1a). Finally, biochemical and microscopy data were obtained that strongly suggest the mechanistic conservation of the NDR1-driven function within coffee and Arabidopsis plants. Using a transient expression system, it was indeed shown that the CaNDR1a protein, like its Arabidopsis counterpart, is localized to the plasma membrane, where it is possibly tethered by means of a GPI anchor.
Our data provide molecular and genetic evidence for the identification of a novel functional NDR1 homolog in plants. As a key regulator initiating hypersensitive signalling pathways, CaNDR1 gene(s) might be target(s) of choice for manipulating the coffee innate immune system and achieving broad spectrum resistance to pathogens. Given the potential conservation of NDR1-dependent defense mechanisms between Arabidopsis and coffee plants, our work also suggests new ways to isolate the as-yet-unidentified R-gene(s) responsible for resistance to H. vastatrix.
PMCID: PMC3212813  PMID: 22023696
25.  RBCS1 expression in coffee: Coffea orthologs, Coffea arabica homeologs, and expression variability between genotypes and under drought stress 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:85.
In higher plants, the inhibition of photosynthetic capacity under drought is attributable to stomatal and non-stomatal (i.e., photochemical and biochemical) effects. In particular, a disruption of photosynthetic metabolism and Rubisco regulation can be observed. Several studies reported reduced expression of the RBCS genes, which encode the Rubisco small subunit, under water stress.
Expression of the RBCS1 gene was analysed in the allopolyploid context of C. arabica, which originates from a natural cross between the C. canephora and C. eugenioides species. Our study revealed the existence of two homeologous RBCS1 genes in C. arabica: one carried by the C. canephora sub-genome (called CaCc) and the other carried by the C. eugenioides sub-genome (called CaCe). Using specific primer pairs for each homeolog, expression studies revealed that CaCe was expressed in C. eugenioides and C. arabica but was undetectable in C. canephora. On the other hand, CaCc was expressed in C. canephora but almost completely silenced in non-introgressed ("pure") genotypes of C. arabica. However, enhanced CaCc expression was observed in most C. arabica cultivars with introgressed C. canephora genome. In addition, total RBCS1 expression was higher for C. arabica cultivars that had recently introgressed C. canephora genome than for "pure" cultivars. For both species, water stress led to an important decrease in the abundance of RBCS1 transcripts. This was observed for plants grown in either greenhouse or field conditions under severe or moderate drought. However, this reduction of RBCS1 gene expression was not accompanied by a decrease in the corresponding protein in the leaves of C. canephora subjected to water withdrawal. In that case, the amount of RBCS1 was even higher under drought than under unstressed (irrigated) conditions, which suggests great stability of RBCS1 under adverse water conditions. On the other hand, for C. arabica, high nocturnal expression of RBCS1 could also explain the accumulation of the RBCS1 protein under water stress. Altogether, the results presented here suggest that the content of RBCS was not responsible for the loss of photosynthetic capacity that is commonly observed in water-stressed coffee plants.
We showed that the CaCe homeolog was expressed in C. eugenioides and non-introgressed ("pure") genotypes of C. arabica but that it was undetectable in C. canephora. On the other hand, the CaCc homeolog was expressed in C. canephora but highly repressed in C. arabica. Expression of the CaCc homeolog was enhanced in C. arabica cultivars that experienced recent introgression with C. canephora. For both C. canephora and C. arabica species, total RBCS1 gene expression was highly reduced with WS. Unexpectedly, the accumulation of RBCS1 protein was observed in the leaves of C. canephora under WS, possibly coming from nocturnal RBCS1 expression. These results suggest that the increase in the amount of RBCS1 protein could contribute to the antioxidative function of photorespiration in water-stressed coffee plants.
PMCID: PMC3121667  PMID: 21575242

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