Wheat stem rust is a devastating fungal disease of wheat that has reemerged as a worldwide threat to wheat production with the evolution of highly virulent races of the fungus in Africa. For decades, researchers and crop breeders have known that something in wheat’s complex genome was suppressing the plant’s resistance to the fungal pathogen. A study published in Nature Communications sheds new light on the underlying genetic mechanism that causes suppression, potentially removing a barrier to developing crops with stronger immunity using modern genomic tools.

“This is the first identification of a trans-suppressor in wheat, meaning that it’s a gene somewhere in the genome that is impairing the function of other genes somewhere else in the genome,” said lead author Matthew Moscou of The Sainsbury Laboratory, in a press release. “Our study opens the way to a novel approach at improving agriculture through removal of suppressors that negatively interact in wheat.”

The wheat genome is composed of three separate genomes—A, B, and D—derived from three different independently evolved grass species. In the 1960s, Canadian researcher Eric Kerber showed that when the D genome was removed, the plant switched from being susceptible to rust to resistant. Further investigations over 20 years narrowed down the cause of this phenomenon to a gene on a single locus on chromosome 7D that was suppressing the plant’s resistance to stem rust.

In this study, researchers use modern sequencing techniques, genetic mapping, and mutational analysis to identify the gene that suppresses resistance to stem rust. They inoculated wheat plants with stem rust and compared the responses to a range of mutant plants that had lost the suppressor gene.

Typically, wheat responds to stem rust with around 8,000 genes being expressed. In these tests, one mutant responded with about 2,200 genes, another mutant with 55 genes. Critically, these mutant plants are resistant, whereas the parent wheat plant is susceptible.

The next steps of the research are to identify additional genes that contribute to immune suppression in wheat and to understand how these genes broadly impact the wheat genome.

Study

More News right arrow

Apeel Sciences receives $250 million in financing

Startup company Apeel Sciences has announced $250 million in new financing led by GIC.

Farms experience animal backlog, small U.S. meat processors overrun

According to The Washington Post, coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants across the United States have forced temporary closures and resulted in a backlog of hundreds of thousands of animals that were ready to be slaughtered weeks ago but increasingly have nowhere to go.

Tate & Lyle sets new environmental targets

Tate & Lyle, a supplier of food and beverage ingredients and solutions, has announced a set of new environmental targets and commitments.

SNAP online purchasing to cover 90% of households

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced that households in an additional 13 states will soon be able to purchase food online with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Nestlé pilots reusable and refillable dispensers to reduce single-use packaging

Nestlé is piloting reusable and refillable dispensers for pet care products and soluble coffee as part of its efforts to reduce single-use packaging.

IFT Weekly Newsletter

Rich in industry news and highlights, the Weekly Newsletter delivers the goods in to your inbox every Wednesday.

Subscribe for free