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Fungi's genetic sabotage in wheat discovered

Date:
July 16, 2010
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
Using molecular techniques, scientists have shown how the subversion of a single gene in wheat by two fungal foes triggers a kind of cellular suicide in the grain crop's leaves.

A team of scientists from seven research organizations lead by ARS plant geneticist Justin Faris has found that a single gene in wheat makes it vulnerable to two major diseases of the grain: tan spot and leaf blotch.
Credit: Stephen Ausmus

Using molecular techniques, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborating scientists have shown how the subversion of a single gene in wheat by two fungal foes triggers a kind of celular suicide in the grain crop's leaves.

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Fortunately, the team has also developed DNA molecular markers that can be used to rapidly screen commercial cultivars for the gene, Tsn1, so it can be eliminated by selective breeding. This, in turn, would deprive the fungi of their primary means of killing off leaf tissue to feed and grow, explains Justin Faris, a plant geneticist with the ARS Cereal Crops Research Unit in Fargo, N.D.

The fungi -- Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (also known as tan spot) and Stagonospora nodorum (leaf blotch) -- are often partners in crime, occurring in the same crop fields and producing the same toxin, ToxA, to induce a Tsn1-controlled response in wheat called programmed cell death (PCD). Normally, PCD protects plants by confining invading pathogens in dead cells. However, the strategy doesn't work against the ToxA fungi because they're "necrotrophs," pathogens that feed on dead tissue.

To better understand this genetic trickery, Faris led a team of scientists from seven different research organizations in isolating, sequencing and cloning the DNA sequence for Tsn1 from cultivated wheat and its wild relatives. Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that modern-day wheat inherited Tsn1 from goatgrass. They figure this happened after a goatgrass gene for the enzyme protein kinase fused with another gene, NB-LRR, which probably conferred resistance to biotrophs, pathogens that feed on living tissue.

Interestingly, Tsn1 is controlled by wheat's circadian clock, and only initiates PCD in response to ToxA during daylight hours. At night, Tsn1 shuts down and "ignores" ToxA, suggesting the toxin may indirectly interfere with the plant's photosynthesis.

The team, which includes researchers from North Dakota State University-Fargo and the Australian Centre for Necrotrophic Fungal Pathogens-Murdoch among others, is reporting its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. The original article was written by Jan Suszkiw. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Justin D. Faris, Zengcui Zhang, Huangjun Lu, Shunwen Lu, Leela Reddy, Sylvie Cloutier, John P. Fellers, Steven W. Meinhardt, Jack B. Rasmussen, Steven S. Xu, Richard P. Oliver, Kristin J. Simons, and Timothy L. Friesen. A unique wheat disease resistance-like gene governs effector-triggered susceptibility to necrotrophic pathogens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1004090107

Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Fungi's genetic sabotage in wheat discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100713101414.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2010, July 16). Fungi's genetic sabotage in wheat discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100713101414.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Fungi's genetic sabotage in wheat discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100713101414.htm (accessed January 27, 2015).

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