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Avirulence Genes in Cereal Powdery Mildews: The Gene-for-Gene Hypothesis 2.0

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Review article (peer-reviewed)
Author Bourras Salim, McNally Kaitlin E., Müller Marion C., Wicker Thomas, Keller Beat,
Project Molecular analysis of three different types of fungal disease resistance mechanisms in cereals
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Review article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Frontiers in Plant Science
Volume (Issue) 7
Page(s) 241
Title of proceedings Frontiers in Plant Science
DOI 10.3389/fpls.2016.00241

Open Access


The gene-for-gene hypothesis states that for each gene controlling resistance in the host, there is a corresponding, specific gene controlling avirulence in the pathogen. Allelic series of the cereal mildew resistance genes Pm3 and Mla provide an excellent system for genetic and molecular analysis of resistance specificity. Despite this opportunity for molecular research, avirulence genes in mildews remain underexplored. Earlier work in barley powdery mildew (B.g. hordei) has shown that the reaction to some Mla resistance alleles is controlled by multiple genes. Similarly, several genes are involved in the specific interaction of wheat mildew (B.g. tritici) with the Pm3 allelic series. We found that two mildew genes control avirulence on Pm3f: one gene is involved in recognition by the resistance protein as demonstrated by functional studies in wheat and the heterologous host Nicotiana benthamiana. A second gene is a suppressor, and resistance is only observed in mildew genotypes combining the inactive suppressor and the recognized Avr. We propose that such suppressor/avirulence gene combinations provide the basis of specificity in mildews. Depending on the particular gene combinations in a mildew race, different genes will be genetically identified as the “avirulence” gene. Additionally, the observation of two LINE retrotransposon-encoded avirulence genes in B.g. hordei further suggests that the control of avirulence in mildew is more complex than a canonical gene-for-gene interaction. To fully understand the mildew–cereal interactions, more knowledge on avirulence determinants is needed and we propose ways how this can be achieved based on recent advances in the field.