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Formidable fungal force counters biofuel plant pathogens
Date:5/3/2011

rst tree pathogen sequenced, was made publicly available in 2008. Poplar leaf rust outbreaks weaken poplar trees, a candidate bioenergy feedstock whose genome sequence was published by the DOE JGI in 2007. In this study Melampsora larici-populina was compared with the wheat stem rust fungus sequenced by the Broad Institute. This rust fungus causes major epidemics of both barley and wheat worldwide. A strain known as Ug99 has spread across Africa and into Central Asia, and overcome most of the stem rust resistant wheat varieties developed over the past 50 years. This is first joint fungal genomics study for the DOE JGI and the Broad Institute.

Sebastien Duplessis said that unlike wheat and other plants, it is difficult to estimate the economic damage resulting from poplar rust outbreaks though the most common figure indicates as much as 50 percent annual growth loss in poplar plantations following major rust epidemics. Part of the problem lies in the fungal method of attack. "For a perennial species such as poplar attacked by an obligate biotroph, the host is maintained alive and the tree is not killed," he said.

DOE JGI's Grigoriev noted that poplar rust and the wheat rust fungi are distantly related and show genome specific expansions in gene families. NRA's Francis Martin, a senior author on the study and long-time DOE JGI collaborator, said that the work means researchers now have the genomes of two fungi that interact with poplar in very different ways. Martin and his colleagues were part of the group that worked on the symbiont Laccaria bicolor, whose genome sequence was published in 2008. "[The Melampsora genome] will allow a better understanding on how a 'bioenergy' tree interacts with its cortege of microbial associates," he said. Grigoriev echoed Martin's comments about the benefits of having the genome sequences. "Learning how these all impact each other helps us to grow poplar and other crops for bioenergy production," he said.


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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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