Pattern recognition receptors: discovery, function and application in crops for durable disease control

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

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.

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