3 years ago

Host-induced silencing of essential genes in Puccinia triticina through transgenic expression of RNAi sequences reduces severity of leaf rust infection in wheat

Guus Bakkeren, Mark Jordan, Vinay Panwar, Brent McCallum
Leaf rust, caused by the pathogenic fungus Puccinia triticina (Pt), is one of the most serious biotic threats to sustainable wheat production worldwide. This obligate biotrophic pathogen is prevalent worldwide and is known for rapid adaptive evolution to overcome resistant wheat varieties. Novel disease control approaches are therefore required to minimize the yield losses caused by Pt. Having shown previously the potential of host-delivered RNA interference (HD-RNAi) in functional screening of Pt genes involved in pathogenesis, we here evaluated the use of this technology in transgenic wheat plants as a method to achieve protection against wheat leaf rust (WLR) infection. Stable expression of hairpin RNAi constructs with sequence homology to Pt MAP Kinase (PtMAPK1) or a cyclophilin (PtCYC1) encoding gene in susceptible wheat plants showed efficient silencing of the corresponding genes in the interacting fungus resulting in disease resistance throughout the T2 generation. Inhibition of Pt proliferation in transgenic lines by in planta-induced RNAi was associated with significant reduction in target fungal transcript abundance and reduced fungal biomass accumulation in highly resistant plants. Disease protection was correlated with the presence of siRNA molecules specific to targeted fungal genes in the transgenic lines harbouring the complementary HD-RNAi construct. This work demonstrates that generating transgenic wheat plants expressing RNAi-inducing transgenes to silence essential genes in rust fungi can provide effective disease resistance, thus opening an alternative way for developing rust-resistant crops. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/pbi.12845

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