Under attack by a cereal killer: deciphering host responses

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office

Abstract

Wheat yellow rust disease, caused by the fungus Puccinia striiformis f. sp tritici (PST), is an historical and continuing threat to wheat production worldwide. Wheat is a critical staple providing 20% of the calories consumed by humankind. However, PST is not only a serious threat to wheat but also to triticale, which is another economically important crop species. The project aims to identify commonalities and differences in the host proteins that are manipulated by this pathogen. The devastating impact of this disease gives a deep sense of urgency to improve our understanding of host processes manipulated by PST to improve the longevity of newly deployed resistant cultivars.

Plants respond to pathogen invasion in various ways depending on the genetic background of both the plant and invading pathogen. During early invasion, plants perceive signatures of attack that activate basal immune responses. In response, pathogens deliver proteins called effectors to their hosts to suppress plant defense circuitry and enable parasitic infection. In certain resistant hosts, plant immune receptors may recognize some of these effector proteins and mount processes to restrict pathogen colonization. This activates a complex network of regulatory genes that coordinate the host immune response. However, for PST-infected plants the degree of host specificity in these responses is not known. Studying host-specific plant gene expression profiles provides the means to identify common and host-specific responses.

The student will be strategically positioned within a multidisciplinary research group at The Genome Analysis Centre and John Innes Centre to provide unique training opportunities in next-generation sequence analysis, molecular biology, plant-pathology and wheat genetics.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1653647 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2019 Pilar Corredor Moreno
 
Description The grant has allowed the student to perform experiments leading to the identification of over 100 candidate wheat genes that are differentially expressed during yellow rust infection. We used transcriptomic data obtained from infected field samples coupled with controlled infections of susceptible varieties inoculated with different virulent strains of yellow rust. Our observations revealed temporal differences in the infection phenotypes in different susceptible wheat varieties. Differential expression analysis helped identify changes in the expression not only in pathogenesis-related pathways like chitinase, callose deposition and stomatal movement, but also in primary metabolism pathways including photosynthesis, glycolysis and metabolism of branched-chain amino acids. ). Time-course experiment data revealed a peak in BCAT expression at 24 h post-inoculation. The most susceptible interactions showed higher BCAT expression levels. We obtained double tetraploid TILLING knock-out lines and, upon infection, the bcat knock-out lines showed reduced susceptibility to yellow and stem rust. We hypothesise that knockout mutants have higher levels of basal salicylic acid (SA) due to the accumulation of isoleucic acid (activator of the SA pathway) caused by the impairment of BCAT. Accordingly, SA-associated pathogenesis-related (PR) gene expression was significantly higher in either double or single uninfected mutant lines in comparison to WT plants, suggesting an connection of BCAT in SA signalling. We are using Virus-Induced Gene Silencing (VIGS), CRISPR/Cas9 and Metabolomics to further understand the pathway and its link to in disease progression.
Exploitation Route We are confident that this work will improve our understanding of the pathways involved in the response to yellow rust and provide novel targets to fight disease. The candidate genes might be of use to breed future resistant wheat varieties and will help to identify which mechanisms are involved in disease response and host-pathogen specificity.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Professional Internship 
Organisation International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Professional Internship for PhD students for 12 weeks (January 2017 - April 2017). Main contributions on capacity building activities: - Technical support in bioinformatics for African scientists hosted at the BecA-ILRI Hub - Plan and deliver part of a training workshop to African scientists on cereal molecular genetics - Design training courses in RNA-seq data analysis and Genotyping by Sequencing data.
Collaborator Contribution Support to organise and deliver training courses for African scientists at the BecA-ILRI Hub, many networking opportunities and opportunity to attend workshops about policy-making and challenges in African agriculture.
Impact On-going collaborations with scientists at the BecA-ILRI Hub (scientific manuscript to be submitted soon); student's transferable and profesional skills; improved Bioinformatics resources at BecA-ILRI Hub; helped African scientists to deliver their projects on time.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Accelerating crop and livestock improvement for food security in Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The meeting brought together the main actors of the John Innes Centre (JIC) and the BecA-ILRI hub partnership to measure impact and identify the future challenges for the collaboration to 'accelerate crop and livestock improvement for food security in Africa'. It was a very interesting workshop, that covered the key aspects of MLE (Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation) and Theory of Change.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Advancing cereals genetic research using latest genomic and germplasm resources 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Cereal Breeding workshop co-organised by JIC and BecA. The 4-day workshop (31st January - 3rd February) held 20 participants from 5 different countries. Pilar Corredor-Moreno helped organising the workshop and delivered a session on assessing natural variation in cereal genomes and a practical session on using Biomart to query genome features. Despite the challenges to teach such a diverse and heterogeneous group, it was a very positive experience for both the participants and organisers. We got very positive feedback from it and participants are already incorporating some of the tools and resources we introduced on their research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description BBSRC workshop on the 'sustainable intensification of agricultural systems in sub-Saharan Africa' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The meeting took place at the BecA-ILRI Hub, Nairobi, Kenya on 13-15 March. The workshop brought together UK and African scientists to define potential future funding opportunities from the UK's Global Challenges Research Fund.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Blog entry about PhD project and conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview about PhD project and attendance to conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.earlham.ac.uk/articles/wheat-side-story
 
Description JIC 50 years Open day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact JIC Open day to celebrate 50 years
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description PubPhD talk at local pub 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Series of reachable scientific talks organised by The Cellar House in Norwich for a general audience. PhD students gave 2-min presentation about their research to engage discussion about the topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar series for Women in Science Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk series in Spanish high schools as part of the Women in Science day initiative. This is a national outreach initiative, talks (total of 4) and activities will be delivered in 3 high schools in Albacete, Spain. I explained my research and the work done at the JIC to GCSE and A level students in Spain. This activity aim to give visibility to women in STEM and advances in the plant sciences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://11defebrero.org/11-de-febrero-english/
 
Description Sports for Boys 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The purpose of the activity was to introduce young boys from local schools to university. We organised a lab session about the science behind sports, in which the students were brought to the lab and a small competition was performed. Children reported almost no knowledge about university before the event while they all were likely to consider a university degree after the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Student ASM talk - How to get away with murder: profiling a cereal killer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk during student Annual Science Meeting organised by the student body of the John Innes Centre
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Tackling the agri challenges with genomics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Three horizons interactive workshop to discuss with farmers and policymakers the most urgent agricultural challenges. Earlham Institute
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Thought for Food challenge 
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 Start-up competition to help feed the world population. Project aimed to increase safety of cultivated urban soils.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UEA Bringing Scientists To You 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Scientists attended Marshland High School (Peterborough) and organised science activities for the students. Pilar Corredor-Moreno assisted in a Biology session in which students were explained what DNA was, extracted DNA and build a necklace with it. The feedback from the students was 8.29/10
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Wheat Side Story: Analysing the host response to yellow rust 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Poster presentation at Molecular Plant and Microbe Interactions conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Wheat side story: yellow rust infected field data reveals temporal differences in the expression of host primary and secondary metabolic pathways 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Scientific talk at International Cereal Rust and Powdery Mildew Conference in Skukuza, South Africa
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Women in computing blog series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Women in computing blog series at the Earlham Institute website
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.earlham.ac.uk/articles/women-computing-pilar-corredor-moreno