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Field studies of transgenic cereal crops containing heterologous, modified or combined resistance genes against fungal pathogens

English title Field studies of transgenic cereal crops containing heterologous, modified or combined resistance genes against fungal pathogens
Applicant Keller Beat
Number 192526
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Pflanzen- und Mikrobiologie Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Start/End 01.04.2020 - 30.09.2023
Approved amount 482'556.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Genetics

Keywords (5)

GMOs; Disease resistance; Field trials; Plant immunity; Cereals

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Gegenstand dieses Projekts ist die Erforschung der nachhaltigen Krankheitsresistenz von Getreidekulturen. In Feldversuchen werden wir die Wirkungsweise und effiziente Anwendung von Resistenzgenen testen. Die Resultate dienen der Grundlagenforschung am pflanzlichen Immunsystem und können zur Entwicklung von neuen Strategien in der Pflanzenzüchtung verwendet werden.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziele des Forschungsprojekts 

Wir werden in Feldversuchen testen, ob neuartige Krankheitsresistenzgene aus Weizen Schutz vor Pilzkrankheiten bieten, und zwar als Transgene und Transgenkombinationen in Weizen, Gerste und Mais. Der Fokus liegt auf der Erzeugung dauerhafter Resistenz. In Weizen werden wir Kombinationen von Resistenzgenen und ein modifiziertes Resistenzgen gegen die Krankheit Mehltau prüfen. In Gerste und Mais soll ein Gen aus Weizen getestet werden, welches im Gewächshaus Resistenz gegen Gerstenmehltau und Rost bzw. gegen Maisbeulenbrand und die Blattfleckenkrankheit vermittelt. Die über vier Feldjahre erzielten Ergebnisse ermöglichen es uns, das Zusammenspiel der resistenten, transgenen Pflanzen und der natürlich vorkommenden Krankheitserreger zu erforschen. Damit können wertvolle Informationen über die Wirkungsweise von Resistenzgenen und von Kombinationen solcher Gene gewonnen werden. 

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojekts

Pflanzenkrankheiten werden in Europa immer noch häufig mit Pestiziden bekämpft. Ihr Einsatz wird jedoch zunehmend eingeschränkt oder verboten. Darum sind neue Lösungen für eine nachhaltige Pflanzengesundheit nötig, und die Erforschung neuer Ansätze ist dringlich. Feldversuche mit transgener Gerste und Mais zur Resistenzverbesserung sind neu in der Schweiz. Die Feldversuche ermöglichen einen Dialog mit der Öffentlichkeit, den Behörden und den Medien über die Chancen und Risiken der grünen Gentechnik und der modernen Pflanzenzüchtung.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.03.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
204165 Functional analysis of host-specific disease resistance in wheat 01.01.2022 Project funding (Div. I-III)
182833 Molecular analysis of disease resistance specificity in cereals 01.01.2019 Project funding (Div. I-III)
160877 Improvement of broad-spectrum disease resistance in rice: how a comprehensive study of natural rice diversity can help to reduce crop losses in developing countries 01.08.2016 r4d (Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development)

Abstract

In Europe, plant diseases have been mainly controlled in the last decades by the use of pesticides. This can result in the evolution of fungicide-resistant crop pathogens and concurrent loss of fungicide effectiveness. Furthermore, pesticide use is increasingly restricted or completely banned because of known or suspected negative impact on the environment or human health. Thus, plant production needs additional and more durable solutions for sustainable crop health, including new ways of using existing genetic resistance in crop plants. Single, major resistance genes are often not durable because of pathogen adaptation. It has been suggested that combination of resistance genes, quantitatively acting resistance genes and/or the transfer of resistance genes to heterologous hosts would result in increased durable resistance. One way to test novel uses of modified natural resistance genes, including gene combinations or transfer to heterologous hosts, is the generation of genetically modified plants. The objective of this proposal is to test if novel transgenes and transgene combinations provide fungal disease resistance under field conditions with their naturally occurring and evolving pathogen populations, in homologous and heterologous cereal crops. A focus of our research project is to test concepts of generating durable resistance. Two breeding strategies for durable resistance are 1) pyramiding of qualitative, major resistance genes and 2) the use of quantitative resistance genes. Both these approaches will be tested. For strategy 1) we will study benefits and limitations of pyramiding the major powdery mildew (Pm) resistance genes by testing under field conditions transgenic wheat lines overexpressing three and four pyramided Pm3 alleles. In addition, transgenic wheat lines combining the over-expressed, rye-derived genes Pm17 and Pm8, also in combination with Pm3 alleles, as well as a slightly modified, artificial Pm3 resistance gene will be tested. For strategy 2) we will study in heterologous cereal crops the effectiveness of the quantitative, durable wheat gene Lr34 conferring partial resistance to several pathogens. We will test under field conditions transgenic barley and maize lines expressing Lr34. The transgenic wheat, barley and maize lines will be evaluated for fungal disease resistance against wheat powdery mildew, barley powdery mildew and rust, and northern corn leaf blight and corn smut, respectively. We also want to study putative suppression effects in specific gene combinations. We will explore the importance of controlled Lr34-gene expression by using a pathogen-inducible promoter. The results obtained over four field seasons will allow us to evaluate the interplay of transgene identity, combination and expression level on one hand and the natural pathogen population and environment on the other hand. The different plant lines will also be tested for pleiotropic effects of the transgene(s) or somaclonal effects resulting in fitness penalties. We will cross several Pm3 transgenes into elite spring wheat varieties and transgene Lr34 into elite spring barley varieties in order to study their function in various genetic backgrounds. Finally, we will conduct physiological studies on the field grown Lr34-transgenic barley and maize lines to gain insights into the molecular function of the unique resistance gene Lr34. Our projects with transgenic barley and maize will be the first field trials with these plant species in Switzerland. The planned field trials will be the basis of a dialog with the public, government agencies and the media.
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