Biotech Updates

Genomics Expose Possible Weaknesses of Wheat Fungus

March 1, 2023

Rothamsted Research scientists constructed a pangenome of 18 European field isolates of the Septoria leaf blotch fungus (Zymoseptoria triciti) to help them identify genes that support its their “core biology.” The fungus affects wheat and is one of the most rapidly evolving threats to global food security.

Using 9,807 sequences, the scientists were able to identify the core gene set that was present in all 18 isolates, lacks inactivating polymorphisms, and was expressed by all isolates. The core gene set coded for proteins required for its essential functions that include virulence. Along with the accessory genomes, they encoded many small proteins that likely interact with plant immunity.

The results are important for pathology research. Identifying core genes exposes the weaknesses of rapidly evolving pathogens, which in this case, is a fungus known to quickly become resistant to herbicides and decrease wheat yields by up to 50%.

More details can be found in BMC Biology and Rothamsted Research.

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