Mildew and rust are the most devastating cereal pathogens, and in wheat they can cause up to 50% yield loss every year. Wheat lines containing resistance genes are used to effectively control fungal diseases, but the molecular mechanisms underlying the interaction between wheat and its fungal pathogens are poorly understood. Here, we used RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to compare the transcriptomic landscape of susceptible and resistant wheat lines to identify genes and pathways that are targeted by obligate biotrophic fungal pathogens. The five lines differed in the expression of thousands of genes under infection as well as control conditions. Generally, mixed infection with powdery mildew and leaf rust resulted in downregulation of numerous genes in susceptible lines. Interestingly, transcriptomic comparison between the nearly isogenic lines Thatcher and Thatcher-Lr34 identified 753 genes that are uniquely downregulated in the susceptible line upon infection. Kyoto encyclopedia of genes and genomes (KEGG) enrichment analysis, revealed the suppression of six major biochemical pathways, namely nuclear transport, alternative splicing, DNA damage response, ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis, phosphoinositol signaling, and photosynthesis. We conclude that powdery mildew and leaf rust evade the wheat defense system by suppression of programmed cell death (PCD) and responses to cellular damage. Considering the broad range of the induced changes, we propose that the pathogen targets "master regulators" at critical steps in the respective pathways. Identification of these wheat genes targeted by the pathogen could inspire new directions for future wheat breeding.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science