Increased pest resistance in oilseed rape mediated by an enhanced UV-B response

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

Abstract

Attack by insects, molluscs and microbial pathogens causes significant losses to the oilseed rape crop and considerable expense is incurred in trying to counter this problem by using pesticides. The aim of this project is to undertake research to underpin the development of new oilseed rape varieties with increased resistance to insect herbivory. Exposure of plants to UV-B wavelengths, which are a natural component of sunlight, has been shown to reduce the attractiveness of plants to insect herbivores by altering plant chemical composition. Several plant responses to UV-B are mediated by a protein called UVR8 and the defence response to herbivory involves the regulatory molecule jasmonic acid. In this project, we will examine the potential of UVR8 and a protein called MYC2 that mediates the response to jasmonic acid to increase resistance to insect herbivory in oilseed rape. We will test whether transgenic over-expression of specific genes increases resistance to insect herbivory as 'proof of concept' that manipulation of the UV-B response could be used to develop new varieties.

Technical Summary

Attack by various pests and pathogens causes significant losses to the oilseed rape crop and considerable expense is incurred in trying to counter this problem by using pesticides. The aim of this project is to develop a novel approach to increase resistance to pest attack in oilseed rape by hyper-activation of UV-B and/or jasmonic acid (JA) signalling pathways. Exposure of plants to UV-B wavelengths has been shown to reduce the attractiveness of plants to insect herbivores. Plant responses to UV-B are mediated through several signalling pathways and hyper-activation of particular pathways may therefore increase resistance to herbivory. Jasmonic acid, which is involved in some responses to UV-B stimulates defence against attack by herbivores. In this project, we will produce transgenic lines of B. napus over-expressing the UV-B-specific regulator UVR8 and a key effector of JA signalling, the transcription factor MYC2. We will test whether these lines have increased resistance to several pests as 'proof of concept' that manipulation of the UV-B response could be used to develop new varieties. We will dentify key changes in gene expression profiles using transcriptomics and levels of secondary metabolites involved in resistance to herbivory in the over-expression lines.

Planned Impact

The project has the potential to generate knowledge that will lead to the development of oilseed rape varieties with increased pest resistance and therefore may provide both economic benefit to the UK and societal impact through a reduction in the need to use pesticides. The recent European review of pesticide legislation within directive 91/414 EEC has identified many active ingredients that are to be withdrawn from use as commercial insecticides. This has impelled an urgent need to identify new and effective alternatives and replacements for crop protection. The target species selected for this project cover three of the most important groups of pests for oilseed rape crops. They are also representative of many invertebrate pest species that affect not only Brassica species in general, but a diverse range of other important crop species. This project aims to develop an innovative approach to crop protection that could be extended to non-Brassica species and provide significant benefits in the future. If the project leads to the development of new oilseed rape varieties that require reduced pesticide inputs it will provide significant economic benefit to companies involved in developing and selling new varieties, growers, and companies involved in processing the crop. It may therefore benefit the UK economy. The potential reduction in pesticide use will have a positive impact on society in general through benefits for health and the quality of life. Reducing pesticide use will be beneficial for growers, decrease the levels of toxins that harm ecosystems and wildlife, improve water quality and reduce pesticide residues in foods. The project will potentially benefit government agencies involved in policy making as it will hopefully demonstrate how supporting innovative science underpinning the development of new crop varieties can be successful in providing economic benefit and improving the quality of life.

Publications

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Description This collaborative project with the University of Glasgow aims to investigate the potential of the UV-B response in brassicas as a basis for improving resistance to pests and diseases. The original demonstration that UV-B wavelengths induce defence responses was shown by our collaborators in the model plant species, Arabidopsis. We combined this knowledge with our expertise in brassicas to test whether similar responses occur in this closely related crop genus. In addition, we have made transgenic brassicas expressing the UV-B receptor, UVR8, to test the proof of principle that this gene is capable of functioning in this crop species. The main focus of the work is on induction of defence against invertebrate pest including slugs, aphids and diamondback moth which all affect commercial brassicas. This work is being done by the Glasgow team, using facilities at the JIC and will be reported by them separately. Our contribution to the project has been in the production of transgenic brassicas, and in the UV-B induction of defence against pathogens
We have completed the production of the transgenic brassicas, and identified stably-expressing lines (first objective). These have been provided to Glasgow for their invertebrate experiments. We found that UV-B does induce disease resistance in brassicas, though its effect depends on the pathogen species (second objective). We found consistent induction of defence against the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae, but no effect against the necrotrophic fungus Botrytis cinerea. This work demonstrates the potential for improved disease control using UV-B responsive genes which could be used in combination with other resistance genes. We are now working towards publication of our research findings during 2019
Exploitation Route This is a novel area of research that has the potential for improving pest and disease resistance in brassica crops. It is too early to demonstrate significant impact that this stage of the research. However, using a small number of pest and pathogens, our work has demonstrated that UV-B responses do occur in commercial brassicas. The next step forward would be to test the responses in different brassica cultivars as the basis for variety improvement through breeding. The work has generated interest from industry, and could be developed in partnership with breeding companies.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Work has continued subsequent to the completion of the award, and we have now produced a draft publication for submission during 2019.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Increased pest resistance in oilseed rape mediated by UV-B Crop Improvement Research Club 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Presented our work on UV-B responses to the BBSRC Crop Improvement research Club
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Crop Improvement Research club 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Final meeting of the BBSRC Crop Improvement Research Club
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016