Biotech Updates

Scientists Transfer 'Pathogen-sensing Antenna' to Wheat

March 18, 2015

A team of scientists from the John Innes Centre (JIC), the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) has successfully transferred into wheat a receptor that recognizes bacteria and triggers a defensive response. The gene from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana could help increase resistance to bacterial disease in wheat crops.

The JIC group worked with TSL and the crop transformation team at NIAB to transfer a receptor gene, EFR, conferring recognition of the widespread bacterial protein EF-Tu, from Arabidopsis to wheat, and used their diagnostic tools to show that the receptor was functional. EFR works like a new antenna that activates defense elements already present and makes the wheat plants more resistant to bacteria. Since EF-Tu is essential, the authors predict this type of resistance to be durable. EFR was first identified by the Head of TSL, Professor Cyril Zipfel.

Dr. Christopher Ridout, one of the project's lead scientists, said "As the wheat genome is sequenced further and we continue our analysis of receptor genes in dicots, we hope to identify more genes that can be used to develop durable resistance, not only to bacterial diseases, but to the most important fungal pathogens of wheat such as yellow rust, Septoria and powdery mildew."

For more information, read the news release at the JIC website.