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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Harnessing the Basal Defense Pathway to Improve Fusarium Head Blight Resistance

Location: Crop Production and Pest Control Research

Project Number: 3602-21220-013-08
Project Type: Specific Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 15, 2014
End Date: Aug 14, 2015

Objective:
1. Generate transgenic wheat plants that overexpress TaBAK1. 2. Evaluate these transgenics for increased FHB resistance and resistance to other wheat pathogens. 3. Transgenic plants that overexpress genes in the lignin biosynthetic pathway will be generated and tested to assess if they confer improved FHB resistance.

Approach:
Efforts to make significant improvement in the resistance of wheat to Fusarium head blight (FHB) require understanding the mechanism(s) of the naturally occurring FHB resistance pathways. Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) conferring varying degrees of FHB resistance are known and these are being used by breeders to generate useful FHB resistant wheat and barley varieties. However, none of the actual gene sequences that underlie these QTL and determine the mechanism of FHB resistance are known. Until the molecular mechanism of FHB resistance is better understood, efforts to engineer improved FHB resistance will be futile. The process of identifying the genes that are functionally essential to FHB resistance has been greatly hindered by the genetic complexities of wheat. In previous work we have developed a virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) system that overcomes many of the obstacles for functional identification of genes involved in FHB resistance. Previous work has shown that wheat and barley plants that are resistant to FHB initiate complex defense responses when challenged by Fusarium graminearum. Understanding how these responses are initiated is a key question to address. Very recent results in our VIGS analyses have implicated a receptor-like protein, TaBAK1, as playing a key role in FHB resistance. In model plants systems this proteins functions in the perception of conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), leading to PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI). The discovery of a receptor-kinase protein that may play a key role in activating FHB resistance offers an excellent opportunity to engineer improved FHB resistance.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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