Molecular Analysis of Oomycete Pathogens to Identify and Translate Novel Resistance Mechanisms to Crops

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Virginia Tech

Disease outbreaks caused by oomycetes can be catastrophic. The first part of this dissertation describes development of a system to identify potential new and durable resistance (R) genes against P. sojae in soybean germplasm. We developed a system to screen soybean germplasm for genes that recognize core Phytophthora sojae RXLR effectors that are conserved within the pathogen species and essential for virulence. R genes that recognize these effectors will likely be effective and durable against diverse P. sojae isolates. We developed a system to deliver individual P. sojae effectors by Type III secretion into soybean using the bacterium Pseudomonas, and we screened 12 core effectors on a collection of 30 G. max lines that likely contain new resistance genes against P. sojae. We identified candidate R genes against 10 effectors. Genetic segregation ratios from crosses indicated that three of these genes have a simple inheritance pattern and would be amenable to breeding into elite cultivars. The second part of the dissertation involves use of a model plant-oomycete system to study the genetic basis of susceptibility to oomycete diseases. We compared host transcriptomes from a resistant and a susceptible infection of Arabidopsis thaliana by the downy mildew pathogen Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis (Hpa). We identified five gene clusters with expression patterns specific to the susceptible interaction. Genes from each cluster were selected and null mutants were tested for altered susceptibility to virulent Hpa. Most A. thaliana null mutants showed enhanced disease susceptibility, suggesting their involvement in pattern-triggered immunity (PTI). A knockout mutant in the AtGcn5 gene was completely resistant to Hpa Emco5 suggesting that the gene/protein is necessary for Hpa to successfully colonize the plant. This study provided new molecular insights into plant-oomycete interaction and revealed a plant gene that could potentially be engineered to provide enhanced resistance to oomycete pathogens.

Glycine max, Soybean, R genes, Effector-directed breeding, RXLR proteins, Phytophthora sojae