Pattern recognition receptors: discovery function and application in crops for durable disease control (PRR-CROP)

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Crop Genetics


Plant diseases seriously limit the production of crops in European agriculture. The diseases can be controlled by chemicals, but ways to reduce chemical inputs are being sought. Sustainable agricultural methods are therefore placing increased emphasis on the genetic potential of plants to control pathogens. Resistance genes have been widely used in plant breeding to control diseases. However, pathogens readily evolve and mutate, which results in the 'break-down' of resistance genes in the field. Thus, an alternative, more durable form of resistance is required in sustainable agriculture. Recently, fundamental work with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana has led to the discovery of a new class of proteins called Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRR's) which recognise essential conserved pathogen molecules that cannot be mutated or lost. These PRR's represent the first line of defence against potential pathogens, and offer the prospect of durable resistance to a broad range of diseases. This project advances our knowledge about PRR's so that it can be applied to crop plant species. We will concentrate on cereals, brassica and grapevine, and focus on PRR's that recognise the fungi and oomycetes which are the major pathogens of these crops. We will identify novel molecules from important crop pathogens that induce this first line of defence in plants. We will also look for new PRR's, both in Arabidopsis and crop plants, and investigate developmental and environmental effects on their performance. We will also test whether known PRR's function when transformed into crop plants. This is a joint project between European research groups in UK, Germany, Holland and France, and also involves collaboration with a seed company. The work will enable us to evaluate the potential of PRR's in breeding to provide durable disease control, so reducing the need for agrochemicals and benefitting the environment.

Technical Summary

The aim of this proposal is to advance fundamental discoveries about the nature and function of PRRs so that the knowledge can be applied into crops, e.g. wheat, barley, grapevine and brassica spp. We would like to maintain the momentum of fundamental research on PRRs, leading to the discovery of new receptors and their associated proteins required for function. In addition, we will augment our discovery programme for new PAMPs, concentrating especially on those from fungi and oomycetes. We will also initiate research into PRRs in crops, investigating the range of PAMP responses in existing germplasm, the influence of the growing environment on them and whether newly identified PRRs recognising novel PAMP's can be transformed directly into crops. The project relies on significant interaction between all members in the consortium.