Crop Biotech Update

Gene Discovery Transfers Rust Resistance to Wheat from Wild Relative

May 11, 2022
Aegilops sharonensis, or Sharon goatgrass, is wild wheat that possesses a disease resistance gene that can be used to boost the immunity of wheat and barley, thus helping to improve global food security. Photo Source: KAUST; Brande Wulff.

An international team including scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has identified a stem rust resistance gene in a wild relative and transferred it to common wheat.

The scientists found the gene in Aegilops sharonensis, a wild relative of wheat found in Israel and southern Lebanon. The new transgenic wheat lines show high levels of resistance to the stem rust pathogen.

There are 58 stem rust resistance genes identified in wheat, with almost half of these introduced from wild and domesticated species of wheat and other cereals. Ae. sharonensis has many traits of agricultural importance, including resistance to major wheat diseases such as rust, but its genetic potential remains largely untapped.

The research team has also published a reference genome to support ongoing efforts to clone other resistance genes. About 80 wheat genes have been cloned, of which about 40 are disease resistance genes and of these, 30 are resistant to the rusts (wheat stem rust, stripe rust, and leaf rust).

For more details, read the article in KAUST Discovery.

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