The abaca or Musa textilis Nee is a member of the banana family (Musaceae) and is an important fiber crop cultivated throughout the Philippine archipelago. The abaca fiber production is a robust industry with incomes reaching $80 million per year, involving over 1.5 million Filipino farmers and their families. As the abaca plant is indigenous to our country, the Philippines supplies 85% of the world’s demand for abaca fibers. In the recent years, abaca fiber production is in decline mainly due to extensive viral infections. The two most significant viruses are the abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV) and the abaca bract mosaic virus (ABrMV).

Ongoing projects include the following:

Molecular Characterization of Abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV), Development of Viral gene constructs and Transformation of Selected Abaca Cultivars

Pathogen-mediated resistance has been proven to be an effective means of conferring resistance to crops such as papaya. Briefly, pathogen-mediated resistance involves the insertion viral genes (e.g. coat protein gene) into a plant’s genome for the possibility of incurring resistance to viral disease. The objective of this project is transform abaca tissue with constructs of viral genes in plant expression vectors.


Production of antiserum against abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV) using recombinant viral protein as antigen

The methods of detecting ABTV today are based on methods developed for a related virus called the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV). The objective of this project is to clone, express, and purify the coat proteins from ABTV. Detection of ABTV particles in plant samples will be achieved through antibody-based assays using polyclonal antibodies produced from recombinant ABTV coat proteins.


Functional Analysis of Abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV) Satellite DNAs

Satellite DNAs are sub-viral agents that can alter, whether positively or negatively, a virus’ infection. The goal of this project is to characterize satellite DNAs associated with the abaca bunchy top virus (ABTV) and to determine the functions of their encoded proteins.


Molecular cloning and Genome analysis of Abaca bract mosaic virus (ABrMV)

An enhanced understanding of the biology of ABrMV can lead to effective disease management. The objective of this project is to characterize the genome organization of ABrMV and to clone and sequence various ABrMV genes.


Our projects are funded by the National Institute of Molecular Biology (NIMBB-UPD), FIber Industry Development Authority (FIDA), and the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).


Somatic embryos and callus generated from immature papaya seeds


Principal Investigator: Vermando M. Aquino, PhD

Research Associates: Christina Lora M. Leyson, Mary Ann Robelle L. Polido

Graduate Student:  Katherine R. Ramirez

Undergraduate Students: Jasca Gayle G. Española, Hazel Mae T. Panganiban


Sample Publications


Alberto RT and Aquino VM. 2009. Characterization of Colletotrichum gloeosporoides (Penzig) Penzig and Sacc. (anthracnose) and Gibberella moniliformis WIneland (twister) infecting onions in the Philippines. Asia Life Sciences 19(1) : 23-58.


Vermando M. Aquino, De Leon TB, MG Colle, Romo GA & Perez PA. 2003 Agrobacterium-Mediated Transformation of Davao ‘Solo’ Papaya for PRSV (Papaya Ringspot Virus). Institute of Plant Breeding, CA, UPLB, Laguna. Best Poster for the Agricultural Science at the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).