A combinatorial approach to controlling Fusarium head blight of cereals

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

Abstract

Wheat is the most important European crop. Fusarium head blight (FHB) is a major threat to wheat production. FHB reduces yields and leads to the accumulation of mycotoxins such as deoxynivalenol (DON) in grain.
Many European wheat varieties are highly susceptible to FHB and achieving resistance remains a major challenge. Fungicides offer a viable means to control FHB, but control of DON contamination of grain is difficult on highly susceptible varieties. We have discovered that Fusarium exploits various plant hormone signalling pathways to overcome host defences.
This provides an opportunity to develop a new means to control FHB: attenuation of hormone signalling combined with fungicide application. The current project represents collaboration between the John Innes Centre and BASF, one of the world's leading chemical companies.
We have developed Brachypodium distachyon as a model for the study of interactions between Fusarium and grass species. We have identified a number of hormone pathways that influence resistance to FHB. Within this project both mutants and chemical treatments will be used to quantify the role of individual phytohormones in susceptibility. Gene expression studies will identify those genes associated with alterations in disease resistance and provide additional targets for investigation.
Findings from the Brachypodium system will be translated into wheat under the guidance of BASF scientists to develop a combinatorial approach of chemical treatment to increase disease resistance in wheat with fungicide application to reduce fungal infection.

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
1777251 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2020 John Haidoulis
 
Description Several plant hormones significantly alter the resistance of Brachypodium to Fusarium infection in both root and floral tissues.

Utilising gene expression tools, there are global transcriptome differences between tissues in response to Fusarium infection.

Fusarium graminearum can produce a plant hormone ethylene and the pathway responsible has been identified.
Exploitation Route My research findings can provide more information on the lifestyle and virulence of Fusarium for planning novel crop protection strategies.
Since there is relatively little known about Fusarium root infection, I provide some evidence for potential new plant pathology research opportunities focussed on Fusarium root rot.
Certain chemical companies or research groups might be able to utilise this knowledge of hormones on Fusarium resistance to develop synthetic analogues with agonistic or antagonistic effects for use as chemical protectants in agriculture.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Environment

 
Description Deletion of Fusarium Ethylene Gene 
Organisation Rothamsted Research
Department Rothamsted Insect Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We developed the hypothesis for the topic and performed the initial experiments for ethylene production and gene identification through gene expression studies. We then transformed the target gene and performed deletion validation experiments.
Collaborator Contribution The collaborator gave advice and supplied the protocol for the deletion of the candidate gene. They then designed the necessary primers and provided the selectable marker plasmid. The collaborator then provided one-to-one teaching of the Fusarium transformation protocol and then selected deletion strains.
Impact We were able to develop Fusarium graminearum deletion strains for the candidate ethylene gene. This collaboration involves scientific methods ranging from molecular biology, microbiology, and chromatography.
Start Year 2018
 
Description BASF Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact During my visit to my project's industrial partner BASF in Germany, I gave a presentation on my research to industry scientists alongside my industry supervisors. This led to discussion afterwards and allowed me to gain experience in presenting research to a different audience. We were then able to make plans for future research topics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description European Fusarium Seminar Poster Presentation, Austria. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I presented a poster of my work at the EFS14 in Tulln, Austria in the scope of raising interest for my topic and generating useful discussion. This presentation allowed me to begin future research plans on this topic as a collaboration with Rothamsted, UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.efs14.at/index.php
 
Description Monogram Poster Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I presented a poster of my work on the various effects of plant hormones on Fusarium infection at the annual Monogram conference in Norwich, UK. The scope was to generate interest on my research topic which raised many useful discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.monogram.ac.uk/MgNW2018.php
 
Description Rothamsted Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact During my visit to Rothamsted Research, I gave a presentation on my work to experts in my field of research including several postgraduate students. The purpose of the talk was to give background information on our collaboration which then resulted in questions, discussion, and new scientific method sharing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019