Navigation Links
Genome sequence could reveal 'Achilles' heels' of important wheat disease

Research published in PLoS Genetics today (9 June) provides insights into how an important fungal disease is able to evade wheat's defences. The researchers hope that the study, which reveals the fungus' complete genome sequence, will enable them to breed resistant crop plants or improve the use of pesticides.

The genome sequence was produced by an international consortium of researchers including scientists at Rothamsted Research in the UK. The scientists, who were funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and others, are already using the fungus' genome sequence to find ways to control the disease in order to help meet the challenges of ensuring global food security.

The consortium has sequenced the genome of a fungus called Mycosphaerella graminicola which causes leaf blotch disease in wheat. The disease kills cells in the plants leaves leaving large dead blotches which are unable to absorb energy from the sun. This significantly reduces yields and takes a serious toll on wheat crops globally and in the UK; annually a 5-15% reduction in grain yield is incurred in each wheat field solely as a result these infections.

Professor Kim Hammond-Kosack of Rothamsted Research who led the study in the UK said "M. graminicola attacks wheat plants by stealth. There is normally a period of about a week between when a plant first becomes infected and when the characteristic blotches of the disease appear on its leaves. During this time it appears that the plant fails to recognise it has become infected and so is unable to activate its defences to fight back. Studying the fungus' genome will help us to understand how the pathogen is able to go undetected and maybe reveal a chink in its armour that we can exploit."

The genome sequence reveals that M. graminicola has very few genes which produce enzymes able to break-down plant cell walls compared with other fungi which specialise in infecting plants. Plants often use the presence of the sugars and proteins released when a cell is broken down as cue for turning on their immune responses, so the researchers think that the unusually low numbers of genes producing enzymes for breaking down plant cells may be crucial to the fungus' stealth approach.

The team from Rothamsted have already started on work using the genome to look for potential weaknesses in the fungus' defences. Collaborating with researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands they have identified a protein in the fungus which is important in keeping it hidden. This research was published recently in Plant Physiology.

Dr Jason Rudd who worked on the project at Rothamsted Research said "We were able to use the information in the genome sequence almost immediately to look for a potential Achilles' heel. We singled out a protein which helps keep the fungus camouflaged and protects it from the plant's defences. When we generated a mutant strain of the fungus which didn't contain the gene for this protein, the infected wheat plants produced strong immune responses and didn't develop the characteristic leaf blotches. Our next step is to use these and similar findings to help farmers combat this disease out in the field in order to reduce wheat losses."

Professor Maurice Moloney, Director and Chief Executive of Rothamsted Research commented "Rothamsted Research is proud to be part of the team that has sequenced and analysed the M. graminicola genome. This fungal pathogen causes one of the most pernicious plant diseases and accounts for significant losses annually in wheat yields throughout the world. This work illustrates the power of sequencing the genomes of plant pathogens in identifying key targets for efficient plant protection."

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said "Genome sequencing is an important tool in the fight to ensure global food security. Determining the sequence of a destructive crop disease like this is now so quick and affordable that it can be viewed as a research tool rather than a project in itself. This is especially true when the complementary talents of researchers in different countries can be brought to bear. As in this project, this information can be put to immediate use in finding new ways to combat plant disease."


Contact: Mike Davies
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Related biology news :

1. Gerry A. Higgins, Ph.D. Joins GenomeQuest to Foster Development of Whole Genome Diagnostics
2. Einstein offers easy-to-use genome analyzer to scientific community
3. BGI releases a complete de novo E. coli O104 genome and details of their detection kit
4. BGI sequences genome of the deadly E. coli in Germany and reveals new super-toxic strain
5. Of mice and men: UNC-led team solves mouse genome dilemma
6. Comparison of genomes of plant parasites provides solid clues for response
7. Eucalyptus tree genome deciphered
8. Discovery of DNA silencing mechanism reveals how plants protect their genome
9. The $1,000 genome may cost $100,000 to understand
10. USDA researchers, collaborators sequence genomes of fungi that threaten wheat, poplars
11. Spikemoss genome offers new paths for biofuels research -- bridges plant development gap
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Today, ... a partnership with 2XU, a global leader in ... a smart hat with advanced bio-sensing technology. The ... athletes to monitor key biometrics to improve overall ... partnership, the two companies will bring together the most ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... SAN JOSE, Calif. , Oct. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... human interface solutions, today announced that Google has adopted ... family of touch controller solutions to power its newest ... Nexus 6P by Huawei. --> ... ecosystem partners like Google to provide strategic collaboration in ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 26, 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused ... and PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the ... F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in ... second smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a ... F-04G in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: ... business and prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights ... doxorubicin) recently received DSMB recommendation to continue the ... review of the final interim efficacy and safety ... Endpoint in men with heavily pretreated castration- and ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman and ... early in their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it forward ... make early stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they join ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... SAN DIEGO , Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, ... Jaffray Healthcare Conference in New York on ... Dr. Helen Torley , president and CEO, will provide a ... New York at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. ... communication and investor relations, will provide a corporate overview. --> ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: AEZ) ... of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as of ... corporate developments that would cause the recent movements in ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company engaged ...
Breaking Biology Technology: