A functional molecular marker for detecting blister blight disease resistance in tea (Camellia sinensis L.)


Key message

Identification of an EST-SSR molecular marker associated with Blister blight, a common fungal disease of tea, facilitating marker-assisted selection, marking a milestone in tea molecular breeding.


lister blight (BB) leaf disease of tea, caused by the fungus Exobasidium vexans, results in 25–30% crop loss annually. BB is presently controlled by Cu based fungicides, but genetic resistance is the most viable option in disease management. Tea is a naturally out-crossing, woody perennial necessitating a long time for completion of a breeding programme. Marker-assisted selection (MAS) is vital to expedite breeding programmes and also for better accuracy in gene identification. The aim of the current research was to derive marker-trait associations using an F1 population segregating for BB. The population was genotyped at 11 expressed sequence tag simple sequence repeat loci followed by detecting the alleles by fragment analysis. The genotypic and phenotypic data were subjected to single-marker analysis resulting in the identification of EST-SSR073 as a diagnostic marker amplifying three alleles of the sizes, 168, 170 and 190 bp in F1. Of them, alleles 190 and 168 bp were confirmed to concur BB resistance and susceptibility, respectively. The alleles were validated in a panel of 64 tea cultivars, resulting in the amplification of 12 alleles at EST-SSR073. The EST-SSR073 allele sequences matched with Camellia sinensis photosystem-I reaction center subunit-II. The marker EST-SSR073 can be effectively used in breeding tea against BB, recording a milestone in MAS in tea.

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The authors acknowledge the financial assistance from the National Research Council, Sri Lanka under the research grant NRC 09-066.


Financial assistance from the National Research Council, Sri Lanka under the research grant NRC 09-066.

Author information




KHTK and KMM conceived and designed the experiments. SACNP and KHTK analyzed the data. KHTK, KMM, OVDSJW and ENUE performed the experiments. KHTK wrote the manuscript, SACNP reviewed and revised the manuscript. KMM, OVDSJW and SACNP supervised and validated the data. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to S. A. C. N. Perera.

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Karunarathna, K.H.T., Mewan, K.M., Weerasena, O.V.D.S.J. et al. A functional molecular marker for detecting blister blight disease resistance in tea (Camellia sinensis L.). Plant Cell Rep 40, 351–359 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00299-020-02637-6

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  • Biotic stress resistance
  • EST-SSR marker
  • Exobasidium fungi
  • Marker assisted selection
  • Molecular breeding